First posted on 23 June 2014. Last updated on 23 June 2014.
|The world of Rhem is far from being a haven.|
|Reservoirs abound in the complex.|
|The generator room lies just ahead.|
|A message has been left behind by a former inhabitant of Rhem.|
|Odd clues point to an untold story about Rhem's origin.|
The game is available at GamersGate.
This game is part of the Rhem Trilogy re-released in 2010 by Lace Mamba Global.
The compilation includes 3 games in the Rhem series previously released separately in 2002-2007:
- Rhem 2: The Cave
- Rhem 3: The Secret Library
Rhem is the original and the first game in the Rhem series, the brainchild of German game developer Knut Müller. Inspired by Stephan Stoske's Das Tor der Minerva (The Gate of Minerva) and Cyan's bestselling Myst series, Müller worked on Rhem for over 4 years while freelancing as a visual artist and composer. The series has since spawned a loyal and cult fan following, attesting to the longevity of Müller as a bona fide indie adventure game developer.
Rhem is a classic first-person point-and-click adventure. In the game, you take on the role of an unnamed messenger, tasked to deliver a letter to Kales written by his brother Zetais. The letter, however, is in 4 parts, each of which has been hidden by Zetais on the mysterious industrial world of Rhem. You need to find all parts of the letter, put them together to enable your escape from Rhem, and then give the letter as well as part of a key back to Kales.
The story told in the game is deliberately vague on the origin of Rhem. On the surface, Rhem appears to be the remains of a vast industrial complex on an isolated island. The complex is now derelict with miles of rusted pipes, endless trails of walkways, numerous rusted but still operable mechanical controls, and many vast unmanned buildings. It is a gigantic maze which you can only access by climbing up or down ladders, locating hidden passages, opening manholes, draining reservoirs, turning revolving buildings and bridges, all the while solving a host of diabolical puzzles in order to find those missing pieces of the letter.
Installation of the game is simple and glitch free. The game supports only a single resolution of 640x480 pixels. From the main menu, you can choose between New Game, Load Game, and Quit. Clicking on the cursorguide option shows an explanation on the use of the 13 cursors available in the game. When playing the game, the main menu can be accessed by pressing the spacebar or Ctrl-M. Other hotkeys include Ctrl-S to save the game, Ctrl-O to load a saved game, and Ctrl-Q to quit the game. When making a save, the game prompts you to type in a description and then creates a .txt text file which you can later reload to restore your progress.
The game begins with a cinematic cut scene—you are in mining cart, meandering along the tracks through a deep valley to a strange and desolate land. The only sound you hear is that of the constant ambient noise of a chugging engine. As you approach Rhem, you see green lakes and rusty pipes as well as rocks and unscalable mountains surrounding a valley that appears to be of volcanic origin. A revolving rail bridge then turns around, allowing you to enter through a tunnel with a sign and the name Rhem emblazoned above it. Finally, arriving at a dead end, you realize that you can no longer leave unless the rails can be turned around. Your only way of escape now is to find the controls for these rails. You have no idea why you arrive there, who or what has brought you there, or even where you are. As you make your way through an abandoned and derelict industrial complex, you eventually notice a stranger on a walkway above you. After learning that he too has been stranded on Rhem for some considerable time, he runs away and steals your mining cart. Left alone, you decide to explore the wide expanses of Rhem in order to find a way of escape.
The interface is minimalistic. Hovering the cursor over the scene reveals hotspots with which you can interact, such as turning a wheel or pulling a lever. The cursor automatically cycles at the hotspot to reveal what actions are possible. You can turn left or right, go forward, or climb up or down. You can also make a full 360° turn by making 4 consecutive left or right turns. The inventory is almost nonexistent, allowing you to keep only the pieces of the letter and the key which you are tasked to find.
The game makes very little effort to explain your immediate goals. Frequently, you have no idea what has just happened, what is happening now, what is about to happen. Only halfway through the game will you find a message detailing your quest, and then only at the end of the game after piecing together the pieces of a letter will you be told why you have been sent to Rhem. The world of Rhem is devoid of any life (even vegetation), except for a fleeting glimpse of a stranger who steals your mining cart and then escapes. The game is nonlinear in that you can recover the pieces of the letter in any order. Each piece of the letter is hidden in a different location on Rhem, which you can access separately.
Because of the low resolution, the graphics in the game are rather grainy though still well detailed. According to Müller, the game features over 4000 pre-rendered images and over 15 minutes of pre-animations. Oddly, the water in the reservoirs is strangely stagnant, without any movement whatsoever.
There is no voice acting in the game. There is also no music, which rightly conveys a sense of the game's general desolateness. There are, however, ambient droning noises of machinery running around the pumping station and generator complex. Likewise, there are ambient sounds of wind blowing through the desolate outdoor expanse. Other sound effects include running water, working machineries, and clicking of buttons.
The puzzles are diabolical. It is clear that the developer has intended this game for only hardcore adventure game fans. Novices will not progress far in this game. It is imperative that you observe and note carefully every control, color, symbol, diagram, and number that you find on Rhem. Navigating through the rotating buildings will test your orientation and make retracing your steps difficult. The hardest puzzle in the game is a puzzle involving a water tower where you must raise the water level to raise a floating bridge to access a set of hidden numbers. While all of the puzzles are logic driven, having the nous to deduce the correct logic to solve them is not at all trivial.
In sum, Rhem is not a game for adventure novices. It has taken me around 80 hours to finish the game, with many hours spent stuck on some of the game's more difficult puzzles. It is a game that will test both your power of observation and your patience. The reward when you get, however, if you succeed in escaping Rhem, is a feeling of total exhilaration, satisfaction, and accomplishment.