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Besides being the "father" of the satellite communications, Arthur C. Clarke has the particularity of being one of the most popular science-fiction writers of the 20th century. His novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, brought to Hollywood by director Stanley Kubrik in 1968, encountered tremendous success from the public, which, with the long series of science-fiction books he published later, raised the reputation of Clarke to a worldwide awareness. Published by Sierra On-Line and inspired by the series of the same name, Rama is the first game based on Clarke's work. The series started with "Rendez-vous with Rama" and today contains three additional titles co-written in a period of ten years by Gentry Lee, Clarke's friend and ex-NASA engineer. Lee is the person responsible for the idea to create a game that would propel players into the mystical universe of Rama. With the help and contribution of Clarke himself, the Rama project became a reality, and is now available as an adventure game that is truly captivating.

Rama is the name given to a huge cylindrical space ship that one day entered into our solar system. Even though the time is 200 hundreds years in the future ahead of our time, there has been no contacts with extraterrestrial life yet. For many, Rama represented the only hope to establish contact with another intelligent life form. For this purpose, a multi-disciplinary team was organized and intensely trained to be ready for the exploration of the city-size vessel. Still, when the date of the departure arrived, none of the team's members were prepared for the amazing encounters they would make in Rama, nor the fascinating world they would explore. The International Space Agency (ISA) did not plan for you would become a part of the mission, but the brutal and mysterious death of the mission commander Valeriy Borzov had for consequence that you were sent as a replacement astronaut to join the crew on Rama. When looking through the window of your ship as it was approaching the enormous black structure of Rama, you wondered what would await you in Rama. Somehow, you hoped you would find an answer to the essential questions you kept asking yourself. Why was it sent, and by who?

Once inside the ship in the Hub Camp, you will be contacted through a video mail, commonly called vidmail, by Nicole des Jardins, the medical officer. The other crew members left vidmails to your attention, and while it isn't required to view them all, it will certainly help to give you an opinion on each member's personality. Before jumping into the cable car to go to the Base Camp, you can get familiar with the interface of the game, and discover all the useful items. The interface for Rama is nothing new, with an inventory, a compass, and eyes to view objects. As you move the mouse cursor on the screen, it will shape into various icons according to which actions can be executed. When the icon represents a grasping hand, this means you can pick up or use whatever the icon is over, while the pointing hand indicates there are buttons you can press. Many items lie on the ground to be picked up, some are more tricky to reach and others are kept behind locked doors that you will, of course, have to open. To add a little to the replay value, the designers featured randomization routines in the game, which not only change the location of many items, but also a few puzzles with a different solution every time you play. Movements are controlled in the same way as the actions, except that the icon will become an arrow pointing into one direction. To make your wandering easier in Rama, a compass will always indicate North and also possible directions from your current position. Following the same philosophy as plenty of other adventure games, Rama features step by step movements, meaning a new screen will appear every time you move or turn. There are, however, a few exceptions throughout the game, where your displacements will be accompanied by a 3D rendered animation.

To your surprise, you will discover that the hollow cylinder contains a world with an atmosphere and gravity. During the first half of the adventure, you will explore a region called the Central Plains, where you will marvel at the rare landscapes and structures such as those christened "London" and "Bangkok." Rama's graphics will provide you with a wealth of information, should you have good observation skills. Thanks to the SVGA mode, it allowed the graphic artists to recreate the world of Rama to the smallest detail, including the strange inhabitants and the enigmatic architecture. The video sequences of the game are done quite well, although the size could have been a little larger. Nevertheless, the acting is well over the average, which actually makes these videos interesting to watch and listen to. Also present to contribute to the atmosphere of the game are the sounds and the music that you will hear throughout the adventure. As there are no dialogue possibilities between you and the other astronauts, except for the vidmails and video sequences that you can't control, the only sounds you will hear besides human voices, are from various mechanisms and creatures you will encounter. From the measured noise of the organic robots called biots, to the bird-like sound from the Avians and other devices scattered around, Rama's universe is filled with the echoes of another world. The music, although it changes regularly during the adventure, can be sometimes monotonous, but remains of an excellent quality with New Age influences.

Even if Rama is a classic adventure game, it doesn't mean you will have to solve the conventional puzzles so commonly found in other games. Though you won't avoid the kind of puzzles that consist in finding items that will be used later with other objects or devices, there are other sorts of puzzles in Rama, much more brain-stimulating at my opinion. As Rama's inhabitants are logical creatures, you can expect to encounter puzzles based on logic and mathematics. Don't worry about the mathematical part, you won't need much knowledge except for calculating in bases other than 10, as Rama's creatures seem to prefer octal and hexadecimal bases as you will see by yourself. Other puzzles will be solved only if you pay attention to the surrounding environment, observe wall decorations and frescos closely, as well as architectural details as they will undeniably provide you with important clues. Watching the inhabitants themselves will also serve as a learning process in the game. But if Rama's world is nothing but extraordinary, it can also be a dangerous place, where you need to be cautious. Fortunately, whenever you are killed in Rama, you will be given the opportunity to retry from where you just failed. Arthur C. Clarke himself will show up on the screen and give you some advice for the rest of the adventure, begging for you not to "die" too often during the game. You can also save your game at any time. Be sure to use that feature when you will be at the point of the countdown, at which time you will only have six hours left before the whole thing blows up!


It is no surprise that Rama is an excellent adventure game, given the background of Clarke and Lee, with the adventure gaming expertise of Sierra On-Line. Combining beautiful graphics with the best of science-fiction, Rama will send players into the unknown, where each of their steps will take them from one wonder to another.

Written by Frederick Claude

Click here for screen shots.



System Requirements:

DOS Configuration

486 DX2-66MHz processor or faster,
Min 8MB memory,
Hard disk,
Triple speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
Local Bus SVGA video card,
Microsoft mouse or 100% compatible,
Most popular sound cards with DAC supported.

Windows Configuration

Pentium 75Mhz or faster,
Min 12MB memory,
Hard disk,
Triple speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
Local Bus SVGA video card,
Microsoft mouse or 100% compatible,
Most popular sound cards with DAC supported.

Developers & Publishers

In North America:

Sierra On-Line Inc.,
P.O. Box 85006,
Bellevue, WA 98015-8506.

Technical Support:206-644-4343 Monday to Friday 8:00am - 4:45pm PST
Fax Support:206-644-7697
BBS Support:206-644-0112
Hint Line:1-900-370-5583 $.75 per minute
Canadian Hint Line:1-900-451-3356 $1.25 per minute

Web site: Sierra On-Line

In Europe:

In UK:

Sierra On-Line Ltd.,
2 Beacontree Plaza,
Gillette Way, Reading,
Berkshire, RG2 0BS.

Technical Support:+44-(0)118-9209111 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm GMT
Fax Support:(+44)-(0)118-9875603
Hintline:(0)891-660-660 45p per minute cheap rate, 50p per minute at other times

Web site: Sierra On-Line UK

In France:

Coktel Vision,
Velizy Zone d'Emplois,
Immeuble Le Newton,
25, rue Jeanne Braconnier,
92366 Meudon La Foret.

Technical Support:(+33)-(0)1-46014650
Fax Support:(+33)-(0)1-46317172
BBS Support:(+33)-(0)1-46324290
Hintline:08-3668-4650 2.19FF per minute

Web site: Sierra On-Line France

In Germany:

Sierra-Coktel Deutschland,
Robert-Bosch. 32,
63303 Dreieich.

Technical Support:(+49)-6103-994040
Fax Support:(+49)-6103-994035
Hintline:0190-515616 0.23DM per 12 seconds

Web site: Sierra On-Line Germany

In Spain:

Sierra-Coktel Espana,
Calle Tomas Redondo 11F,
Edificio Indo Building, Luarca,
28033 Madrid.

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