Enthusiasts of visually sophisticated puzzle-adventure games like Myst, 7th Guest and Riven will find a lot to like in LK Avalon's Reah, published on CD and DVD by Project 2 Interactive and distributed by GT Interactive. Spanning 6 CDs (or one double-sided DVD that boasts slightly better graphic resolution), the game presents a lush, detailed alternate reality complemented by ambient sound effects and an impressive musical score.
In Reah, you are cast in the role of a press correspondent dropped down on another world (the planet Reah) to find the whereabouts of a missing scientific community. As you explore this new world, you meet the inhabitants (provided, of course, that you learn to speak their language) and pick up clues which lead you further into the large, sparsely populated interiors of an enormous city. You'll discover faded maps, talking statues, cryptic symbols scratched on temple walls, primitive scientific devices and ghosts as you try and solve Reah's many puzzles as you attempt to get home.
The designers of Reah have created an interesting and fantastic city for the game, a hybrid of otherworldly artifacts and costumes somewhere between Agamemnon's Greece and ancient Persia. Each interior is carefully lit and fastidiously detailed with pots, rugs, books and dozens of other strange baubles, making Reah's puzzles that much more difficult to solve. Players should expect to spend a lot of time wandering through the game, as each new scene presents hieroglyphs or devices that need to be experimenting with, sometimes for hours, before solutions can be found.
Fans of other puzzle-solving games stand a good chance of enjoying Reah since its gameplay is comfortably like the best of its type. Like Riven, choices made during the game activate cinematic sequences that move the action from place to place and, like 7th Guest, its puzzles are difficult and interesting. It wears its European origin on its sleeve, however (LK Avalon is a Polish company). Much of the dialogue in the game (whether said directly by the player or by the city inhabitants) is B-grade stuff which sounds, rather unfortunately, like poorly translated English spoken by people who seem to be imitating American accents. This is a small criticism for a game that stands out as a fine example in its genre.
Graphics: Beautiful 3D graphics throughout the world of Reah.
Sound: The musical score is great, the dialogue is weak.
Enjoyment: For the genre, it is a stand-out.
In Reah you play an overly ambitious reporter, who has been selected to travel to a ultra secret military installation to cover a story. Reah, as the player is told, is a barren planet that is barely habitable, this however has not impeded the military from setting up an area 51 type base there. Why? Your reporter brain smells a scoop. Soon you find out your instincts were correct. For Reah has a multi-dimensional teleportation device that transports people to its sister planet. Having been warned that the link between the two ports has recently grow unstable, your appetite for a good story wins out over your instinct for self preservation and you enter the alien machine. As you emerge into a immense desert the link collapses and the teleportation device vanishes.
Now trapped on Reah's sister planet your adventure begins as you realize you need to find a way home. Reah is played from a first person perspective, with the voice of the reporter supplying the player with periodic advice. Reah does have minor character interaction mainly between a shrouded spirit who provides hints or clues when the mood strikes him. Reah is however, also a simplistic inventory based game. I call it simplistic because though you gather objects, they are only minutely linked to the puzzle's solutions and glow when needed. Instead they seem to have been included as an after thought. The inclusion of characters and inventory is a clever way of having the game appeal to a broader group of gamers, as well as to hold a players attention. The latter is especially true in light of the anorexic story line. The game provides the player with little plot or context. Weak attempts are made to create suspense and intrigue by have characters state they have met you before. The meaning of these enigmatic statements are then just left hanging in the air. By the time the player finds out the meaning of these enigmatic statements it is to late to create intrigue in the game.
The graphics in Reah make up for the lack of plot line in the game. Obviously, this is where the bulk of Project 2's time was spent. The three different environments the player advances through are extremely beautiful and diverse ranging from a desert oasis, to a lush island and finally a futuristic labyrinth. A great deal of attention was paid to the details in each of these settings. The textures used in the surfaces of dwellings and on such objects as the fountain in the beginning all demonstrate the time and thought put into creating a homogenous worlds. I also liked the ambient sound in the game, which was key to solving a number of puzzles. What hurts the game the most are the superficial characters. Although the full motion video sequences were seamlessly integrated in to the game, the acting always seemed strangely confusing and out of place. Reminiscent of a Bruce Lee movie the original Polish vocals where dubbed unevenly into English. Still this is not as perplexing as the conversations you have with the characters, which are one sided, rarely provide meaningful information, and seem to be placed at illogical points in game play. I often wondered why the creators decided to include characters into the game when they have little or no part in advancing play or story line.
Like most adventure games currently available, Reah comes equipped with a mouse based point and click interface. I had no problems operating it and it didn't advanced the player to slowly or quickly through the environment providing them with ample opportunities to explore. Reah also allows for 360 degree panning, however the player can only look up and down at certain parts of the game. I often forgot and then ended up missing things and had to go back. With a game that offers fully explorable environments it would make more sense to include this option throughout the whole game. Besides this gripe I found the interface to allow for smooth movements within the game and was easy to figure out and use.
Now for my favorite part of this game, the puzzles! I treasure games with good puzzles and Reah is a game with lots of complex and engaging puzzles. Games like Reah are what puzzle adventurists pray for. The kind that require the player to be constantly evaluating and reevaluating what they need to be doing throughout the entire game. To me their is no better feeling then that rush you feel when you finally figure out what has to be done..."I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD" (oops, sorry). So if you are like me, you are going to want this game. Unlike some games like Obsidian where puzzles did not seem to follow any logical format, the puzzles in Reah are very logical and can be figured out with patience and perseverance. They range from simple to difficult. There were only two puzzles that shaved years off my life. The first required the player to align the celestial symbols on four huts, and the other was a very version of Hanoi.
I really liked this game besides its faults. That does not mean, however that this game would be a good addition to a first time or casual players library. Reah is the type of game that appeals to hard core puzzle fans and would prove very boring and frustrating to casual or first time gamers. Reah tries to appeal to a very broad audience by including characters and inventory gathering but neither is fully fleshed out in the game, and so fail create the hoped for draw. What Reah truly succeeds at is being is a graphically beautiful game with an impressive array of engaging and enticing puzzles.
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