RHEM is a first-person game published and labeled an adventure by Got Game Entertainment. It is a massive land that offers hours (20+ for me) of non-linear exploration, lots of puzzles involving math, symbols, and revolving buildings and bridges.
After a dawdling, postcard-size introduction by way of the overtly clichéd rail car, you’re in RHEM, and soon after, stuck there. In typical uninhabited lands fashion, your job is to figure a way out, while piecing together the reason you’re there in the first place. Much later, you find that someone named Zetais is responsible for your sudden exile. It is your job to discover four pieces of a letter he has written to his brother, which are principal to your escape.
The game's format is simple point & click with a small hand cursor. There really is no inventory, as you need only your wits and an Everest of patience. Yet you can pick up two items at a time, and this will come to make sense later in the game.
The spacebar allows you to save/load/quit and change your transition speed. The game requires you to run it in 16-bit color mode with 640x480 resolution, though I had little trouble in 800x600. Caution is recommended doing this, as I have a hunch it may be responsible for the many save-game corruptions I encountered.
There is ambient wind, some distant metallic clanking, and other occasional background blips, yet no music accompanies you on your journey. As this was the original intention of Myst, you be the judge as to whether this adds or detracts from the experience. RHEM is presented in grainy QuickTime fashion (see Crystal Key) with pre-rendered backgrounds. Though acceptable graphically, this is a surprisingly dated look for a new release.
This leads me to believe that RHEM, being the brainchild of a single person, Knut Mueller, has spent many years in a state of arrested development. Maturity rate notwithstanding, this substantial game is a masterstroke for one person. However, it will likely appeal only to hardcore puzzle fans already in love with moribund environments.
There are plenty of good first-person adventure games out there that succeed (such as Dark Fall) in providing uninhabited environments that are creepy, realistic, or ethereal, in concert with an evolving plot. After the first hour though, you discover that RHEM’s promised adventure is equivalent to reading a mediocre novel through cheesecloth: indistinct at best, and not really worth the strain. It is obvious that Mr. Mueller’s talent and focus lie in puzzle theory and composition.
RHEM follows a formula for the basics of an adventure game, so while it does meet most requirements, it’s just not very exciting. As an example, someone may be technically proficient at playing the piano; they hit all the right keys, yet that doesn’t mean the results are pleasant to the ears, or even moves you. Better yet, you know when you return to work or school from one of those trips to the dentist, and your face feels slightly detached? At some point you walk by a mirror that reveals you’ve been drooling in public for the last hour without the benefit of sleep, or the aroma of good cooking. That’s how RHEM felt, or didn’t feel, as the case may be.
There was a numb kind of rote to moving around in its cold environments with little motivation but the hope of uncovering a piece of a puzzle. Conversely, solving each puzzle does bring some satisfaction to game play; but being forced to finally consult a walkthrough in frustration sounds the death knell in my book. The end of this game felt rather anti-climactic, leaving me to deal with a keen sense of loss, mourning the time I could have used absorbed in something better.
In truth, RHEM is as much of an adventure as Safecracker, which is to say the thinnest of premise. Oh yes, there is lots of exploration and some cool puzzles to be sure, but unless you consider wandering around similarly textured environments and that creased copy of Crossword in your bathroom an adventure, you’ll likely be disappointed.