Rhem: Induction

rhem-controlsI think I’ve gotten just up to where I stopped playing Rhem the first time. My last major accomplishment was setting everything up correctly in a control center for a system of pipes, allowing water to flow where I needed it in order to gain passage to the second major section of the game. Getting the right settings involves piecing together information from four other places, information partly in the form of unexplained symbols whose meaning and significance has to be derived from context.

For my money, this kind of inductive reasoning is the essence of the genre (both adventure games in general and Myst clones in particular). And it stands in contrast to the sort of reasoning needed in DROD and other rules-based puzzle games. In those, you pretty much have complete information about how all the elements work. The challenge is to figure out the consequences of what you know. It’s very mathematical. Rhem, on the other hand, is scientific: you start with incomplete information, and have to notice patterns in order to figure out how to complete it. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be reading uncommented source code: all the symbols were presumably meaningful to whoever made them. Heck, it’s not all that different from the ad-hoc notation I’ve been using to take notes while playing the game. There are certain fixtures repeated throughout the map, comprising seven buttons arranged around a screen; press the right buttons in the right order, and you get what I can only assume is a clue for a puzzle I haven’t encountered yet. When I encounter one, I note it on the map with a special glyph, a simplified representation of its shape. I could imagine someone else finding my map and being as puzzled by these symbols as I am by the symbols in the game.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Ezlo on 16 May 2007

    That last sentence is an interesting comment. I’ve always wondered why in Myst-type adventure games the instructions are always needing to be deciphered. But now it makes a bit more real-world sense.

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