Finally, after years of anticipation, one of the RHEM games has been released onto the Steam platform. For those that are unfamiliar with the franchise, it has long been synonymous with outstanding point & click puzzle adventuring. The apt comparison for the series is the MYST franchise that has been developed by Cyan and published by Broderbund. This, the fourth and most recent release has you on a journey to collect all nine of the golden fragments in order for you to gain your safe release in the outside world.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that the objective is nearly enough for those of you who haven’t played the previous RHEM games and who therefore won’t understand how important this objective is. This leads me to my first and only major problem that I have with the game on Steam. This fourth episode was released in September, 2010. That means that the title is now over half a decade old. With a game that old I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t put the entire RHEM franchise onto Steam at once. It’s not as though it’s a recent or new release that you can use to test the waters. Yes the other games are supposedly available from the RuneSoft online store (the shop link on the RHEM trilogy page appears to be missing to me) and are available on Amazon but Steam players are traditionally a loyal bunch who will want to have all four of the games on their Steam account or not at all. I tend to believe that unless the game finds itself bundled that by only having the single game available on Steam people won’t take as much interest in the game – and the series – as they perhaps should and that overall copies sold will remain low. I really do believe that whoever decided to put just the fourth game on Steam has done themselves a disservice by ignoring the other games. They may be old but RHEM IV is already a very old game in the eyes of many Steam players so that is not a valid reason.
I would also suggest to the developer, Knut Mueller, that now that you’ve taken to putting a game on Steam that you consider making the most out of what the platform can offer you. You could try adding some achievements into the game. The puzzles in your game are of the caliber of difficulty that an extrinsic reward, in the form of an achievement, would be greatly appreciated after some of them. Furthermore, if you’re trying to increase sales then adding trading cards would be a deft and quite welcome addition. There are people who buy games purely for the fact that they drop trading cards. While I have read that some developers find this to be a disappointing fact I’ve not once read of a complaint about the extra revenue that it has helped them create or the fact that it has opened their game up to a player base that may never have considered their game for purchase previously but who have discovered a game as a result and now list it among their favorites.
Another, relatively minor issue, that I have with the game is that because it is a dated game that if you play in full-screen mode should you want to tab out of the game you’re going to find that the dimensions of your screen do not change from the enlarged size that the game requires. This is a grievance for those like myself who constantly tab in and tab out of games either to work, to take notes or for some other purpose. The solution, surprisingly, to this is to play the game in ‘windowed’ mode. This mode doesn’t actually show me the game in a windowed version but rather a full-screen mode but alt-tabbing out of the game window doesn’t keep the rest of the screen enlarged. However, I do believe that the actual picture becomes smaller. The black square is present regardless.
The RHEM games and this fourth episode is absolutely no different thrive on their puzzles. The story to a large extent revolves around them. They are some of the toughest that have been successfully developed in a video game. Players will go through entire notepads worth of paper typing up solutions. Those who enjoy this type of hard working logical puzzle craft will be in pure gaming bliss with this game and the others in the franchise. It makes it an easy game to recommend even if you haven’t played the other games in the series. However, I would absolutely recommend that you play those games before this one even if you can theoretically play this game without having played them. Understanding the lore and the game world will give you a greater appreciation of the game that you are playing. I also believe that having played the previous games will give you a greater understanding how to accomplish some of the more difficult – and boy are they difficult – puzzles in the game. There are a lot of puzzles in the game and each of the titles, including this one, are lengthy. Fans who play through the entire game will certainly feel as though they have gotten their monies worth out of it.
If you’re a puzzle fan then you need to play at least one RHEM game. Given that this is the first one on Steam then make it this one and if you find yourself loving it as much as its sizeable fan base already does then get the collection – hopefully when Mueller or RuneSoft add it to Steam.