Review Overall Impressions
I've been a fan of Arthur C. Clarke ever since I talked my parents into taking me downtown Chicago to see the first run of 2001 at the Cinerama Dome in 1968. After that, it was easy to find and enjoy his other, earlier works; for example, the original 1948 short story "Sentinel" (on which 2001 was based) and the superb 1953 novel Childhood's End (which was never made into a movie, unfortunately). Later, Clarke's first book of the Rama series, Rendezvous with Rama (1973), opened up a brand new environment for speculation.
The concepts introduced in the first book were continued in the sequel Rama II, mostly written by Gentry Lee from an outline by Clarke. This second book of the series is the principal basis for the Rama computer game. The characters and their personalities have been moved over from the book fairly intact, but a few minor adjustments have been made.
From what I remember from the books, the Rama game seems to be loyal to the basic storyline and ideas introduced in the series, particularly in the depiction of the alien lifeforms living inside the Rama spacecraft, and the general geography of the place. Playing the game has renewed my interest in the whole Rama environment, and I'm looking forward to re-reading at least the first two books of the series.
Without the extensive backstory offered by the book series and by the characters in the game itself, Rama would still be a challenging and enjoyable entertainment. So it's not necessary to be a Clarke fan, or even to have read any of the Rama books, in order to enjoy the game.
The level of detail and richness in the texture-mapped graphics, as well as the first-person viewpoint, makes it easy to become immersed in the game's premise that you're part of an astronaut team exploring the giant Rama spacecraft. The acting in the video sequences, uniformly excellent throughout the game, really contributes to this experience.
Should Rama be subtitled The Numbers Game? Well, one thing is for sure - you're not going to finish the game without getting (or using) at least a rudimentary knowledge of octal and hexadecimal arithmetic, sequences of prime numbers, and pattern recognition. Given the backgrounds of Clarke and Lee, this mathematical overtone should come as no surprise. It really adds another dimension to the game (no pun intended).
Like a number of other first-person adventure games, Rama uses a framed viewport to show the action, with the remaining areas of the screen used for inventory display, a few control functions, and decoration. While this type of interface is not as visually impressive as a full-screen display, it didn't seem to detract much from involvement in the game. However, the game could have benefited from optional keyboard-based navigation controls, such as was used in the excellent Timelapse interface.
The game plays on two CD-ROM's, with a third reserved for some amusing video interviews with Clarke and Lee, as well as additional story information presented in the form of astronaut interviews by the journalist characters in Rama. The game may be started from either CD-ROM, and prompts for replacing CD-ROM's without automatically ejecting them.
Rama has excellent stereo sound effects. In several areas, such as the London sewage pit, the background sounds are particularly effective in adding depth. Music is above average, but rather repetitive due to fairly-short sequences. In some areas, such as the biot demo room in London, the music seemed faintly reminiscent of what was used in Sierra's Shivers game.
The endgame sequence is adequate, but perhaps a bit anticlimactic considering the breadth of the game and its fairly-difficult puzzles. I was a little disappointed not to meet any real live Ramans, but that remains consistent with the storyline in the Rama books. All the door entrance puzzles in the game are on the right -- are most Ramans dextral too?
Rama is covered under Sierra's usual return policy - if you felt you got a lemon, your loss is basically limited to your postage costs in returning the game. Technical Issues Information in this section is based on playing the game under DOS Version 5.0. Note that running the game under Windows 3.1 requires at least a Pentium 75 processor.
A number of situations occurred which caused the game to crash. Some of these may have resulted from playing the game on a "minimum platform". On occasion, the game would hang right before an animation sequence. Other extraneous crashes were experienced, including one producing the message "Text box too small for first character Script # 64915 ($ff22f86c+)".
Animations sometimes left colored pixels behind. Sound problems were frequently encountered. Dropouts occurred often when interacting with the game (moving the mouse). The sound would sometimes simply halt after a few minutes of game inactivity; the game had to be saved and restored in order to get the sound to return, and sometimes even that didn't work. These problems, as well as bad lip sync seen in most video sequences, may be due to insufficent CPU resources on the gaming platform.
The game would predictably hang and/or cause extraneous printing whenever numeric digits, parentheses or more than 19 characters were used in the savegame name. The time required to bring up the list of saved games got longer and longer as the directory filled up (to a maximum of 99 games). Consequently, it is more efficient to keep groups of games in separate directories. There is no obvious way to exit the game from the main menu. The game would have been better if there was a way to "de-clutter" the inventory, such as having it automatically disappear the last time it's needed (as is done in other games). ------------------------------------------------------------------------
- F: Forward (Fn for n repetitions)
- L: Left
- R: Right
- B: Back out
- U: Up
- D: Down
- Most animations can be skipped by pressing Esc
A significant characteristic of Rama is its randomization of play components, affecting inventory item locations, the timing of animation sequences, a few puzzles, and certain destination locations in the central plains. For example, many inventory items have no fixed location where they may be found - if you need something you haven't found yet, you're just going to have to search carefully for it (fortunately, items do not seem to migrate within a particular game). As a result, it's not possible to give an exact step-by-step procedure for progressing through the game - your mileage may vary.
If you can't find an item that you need for a puzzle, continue on with the game and it may become available later. The game designers' purpose in creating these randomizations is not clear - they change only the details of the game, not the basic concepts or gameplay strategy, and add little to game replayability.
As a basic strategy, pay particular attention to the ground, as artifacts may often be found there. A painstaking, but effective approach to moving through the environment is to turn completely around at each node position and check each view carefully. Much of the inventory turns out to be "red herrings" - unneeded in your actual gameplay sequence, but perhaps confusing your choices at various points and making gameplay a bit more complex.
To prepare for several tasks in Bangkok and other locations, brush up on your base-8 and base-16 arithmetic skills.
Project Newton Crew: ID Character Game Role
- After the game introduction and animation of Nicole, move F L F2 to the computer console.
- Click on it, then on the MAIL command to bring up your vidmail. Each message adds a bit to the backstory of the game and introduces you to the basic personalities of the other astronauts.
- In particular, note Wakefield's Falstaff creation (you'll see more of it later) and O'Toole's favorite primes sequence 41,43,47,53,...,1601 or x^2 - x + 41, for 1 <= x <= 40
- The cable car code is derived from the first two elements of this sequence: 4143.
- Move L and watch the animation of an avian flying by.
- Move F4 L F and descend the ladder.
- Move R F and click on the nuclear device.
- Pick up the locker #6 key next to the INACTIVE light.
- Go back up the ladder and move F R F R to the lockers.
- Open Locker #2 with the key in your inventory and pick up the ISA multi-tool and your wristcomp. The wristcomp has a map feature that will often come in handy during gameplay.
- Open the unlocked Locker #9 and pick up your trusty sidekick, Puck.
- If you get a vidmail message from Sabatini requesting her cigarette lighter, you can ignore it.
- Open Locker #6 with the key in your inventory and pick up two pattern artifacts, a blank key, three symbol plaques and a datacube.
- Combine the datacube with your wristcomp to read a message from Sabatini to Brown.
- Use the blank key to open Locker #7 and pick up an optical lens and a datacube containing an encoded message from Heilmann to his underlings.
- If you spend a lot of time at the hub camp, you'll eventually get a friendly reminder from Nicole to come on down.
- From the lockers, move L F2 R F L and get in the cable car.
- Enter the code from O'Toole's vidmail message and press the red button. Enjoy the ride down to the base camp, with a rare third-person POV.
- Move R F to the table and pick up a note from Nicole and a datacube (both shameless plugs for Clarke's upcoming book 3001).
- Move L2 F R and open the storage box on the other table.
- Inside, pick up any pattern artifact(s) and symbol plaque(s) you may find.
- Other astronauts add items to this storage box from time to time, so check back on it (and the refrigerator) later if you seem to be missing an item.
- Move B L2 F and watch the animation of Turgenyev.
- Move F3 out onto the central plains.
- To identify fixed destinations on the central plains radar map, we'll use a clock analogy.
- It's often possible to enter and exit a central plains location from more than one direction.
- There are a few randomized locations on the central plains that contain a moving biot symbol.
- You can check these out for information on how the biots move and act, but be careful not to get in front of a triangular sextet of crab biots, or you'll get trashed!
- In particular, be sure to visit the centipede biot location (4 green squares in a row) and pick up a symbol plaque if it drops one.
- Find Nicole's position (012) and watch the animation of her.
- Back out to the radar map and head for the biot garage area at 3 o'clock.
- Move F L F to the cube of alien plastic containing a symbol plaque; you'll return for this one later after the plastic is melted.
- Move R2 F2 and get a datacube from Reggie Wilson describing crab biots.
- Move L2 F R F R F R and pick up a red crystal from the remains of the broken sphere.
- Move L F R F into the biot garage and let Puck describe the various types of biot inside:
Biot Type Purpose
Mantis Uses colored light
Crane Lifts heavy loads
Crab Trash collector
- Exit the biot garage, move L F2 R F and be sure to check for items on the ground under the large slanting building.
- At various points, you may be interrupted with an animation sequence in which you are given an inventory item (symbol plaque, optical lens, etc.) from one of the astronauts.
- Move back to the radar map and head for London at 1 o'clock.
- Move F and listen to Takagishi.
- It's a little hard to pick up through his accent, but he does make a reference to a "pattern" in the pulsing of the forcefield blocking entry to the red London building ahead.
- If you count the individual pulses of the forcefield, you'll note that after every ninth pulse there is a short pause during which the field is off.
- If you time it right, the pause will give you enough time to move through the forcefield without getting fried.
- After you've passed through, move L and pull the tan-colored drawer to turn off the forcefield.
- Note the encircled triangle at the top of the forcefield switch - you'll need to use that later.
- Pick up any items lying on the ground.
- Move R2 F to the London entrance.
- Click on the small flanking column to the right, having a red design on it. This is the London entrance puzzle.
- Pick a symbol plaque from your inventory that has an appearance appropriate for the pattern displayed by the other eight plaques; for example, a horizontally-split yellow-and-green pentagon with two white and two black dots.
- You have undoubtedly picked up some "red herrings" along the way, so examine your choice carefully.
- When the correct plaque has been placed, you'll hear the sound of the London entrance door opening.
- Move F2 and and turn all the way around checking for inventory items, looking in particular between the decorated column supports.
- Also check the doorway through which you entered and the doorway on the opposite side of the room.
- To the left, you can operate a device showing various aspects of the Rama spacecraft, including a red sphere that seems to show the locations of various species inside Rama.
- Another sequence shows the fabrication of the Rama spacecraft shell, but a more likely construction method (at least for humans) would involve hollowing-out an existing asteroid.
- On the opposite side of the room, zoom in on the left panel and place your pattern artifacts to create an oval representation of New York island in Rama's cylindrical sea.
- When complete, the oval shows a map through a maze of corridors to three plazas.
- Zoom in on the right panel and place your six remaining pattern artifacts.
- Getting the order right is tricky, descriptions may help:
- Left to right: 1.Yellow island in purple sea at center
- 2.Italy-shaped yellow protuberance at lower center
- 3.Small rectangular yellow region at lower center edge
- 4.Irregular yellow region extending down to lower center edge
- 5.Single yellow island in purple region at lower edge
- 6.Several yellow islands in purple region at lower edge
- When complete, the display shows a map of the central plains, with red dots representing artifact locations and white smudges providing close-ups.
- Left to right, the locations are: •Dock •Biot Garage •London •Big Wheel •Bangkok
- The second door puzzle in London requires two symbol plaques.
- After you've opened the door, move F2 R F L F and watch the animation of the mantis biot using a red laser (twice) to descend on an elevator.
- Move F2 and pick up the biot box.
- On examining this box, you'll see that it looks like it can be opened, perhaps using the triangular button on its back.
- Have you seen this triangular shape before?
- Move B L and create a red laser equivalent from your inventory by combining the red crystal shard and the ISA multi-tool (use its button to put it into flashlight mode).
- To summon the elevator, use the red flashlight on the laser target in front of you.
- Move B F and repeat the laser procedure to descend into the sewage pit.
- Explore the pit areas at the ends of all three walkways to pick up symbol plaques, which will be dirty from the fluid in the pit.
- There may also be clean symbol plaque(s) on the walkways themselves.
- Exit the pit using the elevator as before. Facing the door the mantis came out of, move R F2 R F2 R F and observe the trash transport carts.
- Move L to yet another door puzzle.
- The plaques on this type of door puzzle are most easily identified by the symbolic base-3 notation at the bottom; for example, the symbols
- From: Steve How do i do the last machine with the base 16 math? it gives me 4 symbols + 4 symbols but i cannot figure out how to do that. Please help me. Steve
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