Review by Al Giovetti
(based on the story in the RAMA 2 Book)
Price: About, $59.95
Genre: Graphic Animated Adventure
Release: November 1996
Developer: Dynamix Division of Sierra On Line
Designer: Gentry Lee
Original Authors: Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
Director: J. Mark Hood
Lead Concetpt Artist: Richard Hescox
Lead Game Artist: Mark Brenneman
Lead Programmer: Steven Hill
Publisher: Sierra Online
Website: www.sierra.com
requirements: WIN 95: Pentium 75, 2X CDROM, 12 MB RAM, local bus video, hard drive, mouse, DOS: 5.0+, 486DX/66+, 8MB RAM, local bus video, hard drive Demo: yes, one on CD is available

Company line: A giant spaceship, appearing from deep space and passing through our solar system. An alien architecture and technology, as mysterious as the depths of space itself. Where did it come from? Why is it here? And will you survive its unknown challenges and dangers long enough to report your findings? Gentry Lee, co-author of the Rama series, would like to offer you an invitation to explore this alien mystery for yourself.

Clarke, icon of modern science fiction, appears in video clips during the prologue, death scenes and finale. The game includes a bonus video interview with Clarke, including his thoughts about science fiction, space travel and technology. In addition, players will discover a "data cube" in the gameplay, containing an entire chapter from Clarke's next installment in the "2001: A Space Odyssey" book series -- "3001: The Final Odyssey," scheduled for release in Spring 1997 from Del Rey Books, a division of Random House.

History: When I was a young man, a virtual teenager, I called my then girl friend and went out to dinner and a movie. The movie was "2001 A Space Odyssey" and the theater was the Uptown in Washington, DC, probably the best theater in the world at that time with three projectors and a screen the size of a football screen. The Uptown and 2001 was a remarkable if not a the most expensive movie I had gone to. The entire theater was blown away by the experience.

Arthur Clark, an icon of science fiction writing, has written over 70 books, including 2001: A Space Odyssey. When Rendezvous with Rama was released a few years back, the book sold out and was a sensation with science fiction readers throughout the world. A later RAMA series emerged with further books that held enthusiasts riveted to its pages and waiting anxiously at book stores for subsequent books in the series.

Now Arthur C. Clarke and his co-author on four novels, Gentry Lee, have agreed to become involved in the production of an interactive story based upon the original book series, and has further consented to appear in the epic adventure. The only fear among the gaming and science fiction enthusiasts is whether Clarke will become involved with the series like Harlan Ellison in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream or like Jane Lindsgold and the late Roger Zelasney or whether this project will be abandoned by Clarke as beneath his mettle.

Sierra On-Line (NYSE: CU) is one of the original developers and largest worldwide publishers of interactive entertainment, productivity and educational software. The company recently merged with CUC Int'l, a technology-driven, membership-services company that provides access to travel, shopping, auto, dining, home improvement, financial and other services to 62.5 million consumers worldwide.

Plot: The plot is set two hundred years in the future. A massive cylindrical starship appears on Earth's doorstep. The cylinder is the home to several races and semi-intelligent robots which you find out later are really androids. You need to discover, explore and communicate with the alien races while solving the puzzles and eventually prevent your own team from blowing up the important artifact which earth sees as a potential threat

Earth sends a team of 12 astronauts. The commander of the team dies shortly after arriving. As the replacement member for the one that died, you are charged with the task of solving the mystery of the murder and the starship, while another of the scientists assumes command.

As the player is flown in a drone shuttle from a nearby space station to the crew hub site, just inside the outer shell of RAMA, his commanding officer in the ISA (International Space Agency) spells out the objectives of the assignment and the player goes to work in playing and solving the game.

With a team of astronauts you explore a massive 50 kilometer long by 20 km wide cylindrical alien spaceship. The surface of the ship is peopled with many sentient and non-sentient organic and artificial beings. Some of the beings are friendly, but the vast majority are not. Many lost secrets of science, technology, and other disciplines can be uncovered by investigating sites, collecting artifacts, and communicating with those long dead and those still moving along the surface of RAMA.

According to one Sierra source, "I think the combination of Gentry Lee working with Mark Hood, who has worked on several of Sierra's adventure titles over the past 9 years, most recently Phantasmagoria, and Richard Hescox, who both have the game development experience is an excellent combination."

Puzzles: The tresure hunt style puzzles determine how far you progress in the game. The clues to solving the puzzles are in the characters themselves. A mantis biological robot uses a red laser to activate an elevator. The player must put together a red crystal and a flashlight that they found prior to this point to use the elevator. Thus, one must use the objects from inventory at the correct time and in the correct way to progress in the game.

The puzzle type also include number puzzles, colored light puzzles for the Octospyders, and others. The puzzles. While the Octospyder puzzles are the most intriguing, they do provide an Octospyder teacher to help you to decipher their language. Other puzzles involve the use of an infrared device to see certain clues.

Later in the game time becomes a factor which is a real downer to an adventure game player. I managed to finish the game without worrying about time, but it really cuts into your enjoyment.

Museums exist in the area of Bangkok. The museums provide essential background information needed to solve many puzzles. When you fail Arthur C. Clarke will appear and give you hints to help you solve the game. This almost contradictory reward for failure adds a new dimension to dying from your mistakes.

Graphics: Rama uses state-of-the-art techniques such as full-motion video, exquisite character animations and beautifully rendered art into one unified product. Each of the astonishing worldlets inside RAMA, including the lairs inhabited by strange alien creatures, is produced in a 3D graphic environment that gives the player the sense that he has indeed been transported inside the amazing spaceship.

Characters were filmed with a video camera and the results digitized into full motion video sequences in the game. The FMV were combined with excellent fully rendered character animation and backgrounds.

Voice actors: a crew of professional actors including cameo appearances by Clark himself are very well done and make dying fun for the game player. In fact, you see Clark more often if you die.

Music score: Original soundtrack.

Documentation: Unfortunately, Sierra has opted to include a very small 32-page paper manual. The lack of a full size paper manual in addition to the online manual has always dismayed me. When I am forced to take a break from non-stop gaming, I cannot take my manual with me to bone up on the new action and techniques.

Hints: Save often, especially during the timed endgame where you should save when presented with a puzzle, figure it out, then restore and do it quickly to save time.

Multi-player: no multiplayer options.


Dave Stanworth, http://gamesdomain.co.za/gdreview/zones/screens/screen26.html
http://melville.books.com/scripts/search.exe?type~AUTHOR/search~CLARKE,%2BARTH UR%2BC
Julie Gordon, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 9, February, 1997, pg. 78, 70%