Header

Game: Rhodan: Myth of the Illochim
Developer: Deep Silver
Publisher: BrainGame
Year: 2008
Reviewed: 2009
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Game Version: 1.1
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

At last! A game based on the popular Perry Rhodan science fiction stories! That’s probably what I would have said if I had any clue what Perry Rhodan was when I bought this game. For that, I’d probably have to be German, and a fan of the “aliens and lasers” side of science fiction. Apparently Perry Rhodan is a series of stories that have been going since the 60s, but in Germany, with only sporadic English translations. Meaning I’m completely unfamiliar with the series, and had in fact never heard of it. It’s rather daunting to know that I’m about to enter a world that’s been going so long, but I’d expect a game like this to be welcoming to people like me, since it would severely limit its appeal in England if it was aimed just at the fans. Unfortunately, it seems the game must have assumed that we know all about the Rhodan universe already, since the way it’s presented didn’t give many clues about it. Either that, or it’s just a rather poorly designed game in that respect. Surely not!

Rhodan Intro movie
Someone actually taped over the game’s intro with an exercise video before the game was shipped.

The first strange thing I noticed when I loaded the game was that it ran in windowed mode automatically and I couldn’t find an option in the menus to turn it to full screen. I assumed it only worked in windowed mode, which seems a bit silly, but then I launched the game from the Start menu shortcut and it loaded in full screen. It seems that launching from the actual program file launches it in a window, and there’s an option added to the shortcut to make it full screen. Quite a weird way of working.

The game plays out like a standard point and click adventure. Your inventory bar is at the bottom of the screen, which rapidly fills up with random junk that you pick up for no good reason only to discover a bizarre use for several hours later. Clicking on something in your location performs an action on it, but the right mouse button doesn’t do anything at all, so you’ve no options as to what you do. This means that you can’t look at something before you pick it up or use it. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem in most games, but in a game like this where the items you’re collecting are often weird technical gadgetry, you often haven’t a clue what it is. For that matter, it can be quite baffling even afterwards. You can get a description of the items once you’re carrying them, but they’re usually rather dull and full of faux-scientific jargon to try and make it sound futuristic.

The inventory runs across the bottom of the screen at all times and is quickly filled with junk. Right clicking things here does give a description, so why this couldn’t happen in the main environment too I don’t know. Unusually, you also get bits of information stored in your inventory alongside the physical items. Mostly this seems to be because there are no dialogue options during conversations, so using the information from your inventory on the other characters is the only way to ask them about it. More a way of covering for a shortcoming in the way the game works than a genuinely interesting feature.

Rhodan Planet
Perry Rhodan takes a stroll through Blackpool town centre.

Being based on books, I’d have expected a good story from this, so let’s discuss the plot. This sort of thing isn’t my favourite type of science fiction to read, but it’s exactly the sort of thing which should make a good plot for an adventure game. But it doesn’t. The plot was so thoroughly unmemorable that most of it vanished from my mind within 10 seconds of exiting the game. It does start with a rather good cutscene of a woman fighting some robot things, but then everything falls apart. The game itself involves investigating her disappearance. The reason for the majority of it being so forgettable is simply how dull and/or unlikable the characters are. For example, I don’t know whether it reflects the books, but in this game, the character of Perry Rhodan is one of the most unpleasant I’ve played. But I think that’s more down to poor game design. He comes across as arrogant and self-serving, happily stealing everything he can and shamelessly manipulating people to get what he wants, no matter what the consequences would be to them. The reason I feel it’s because of bad design is that there’s never any comments on this. Rhodan doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with this. They’re all things that happen regularly in adventure games, but usually they make sense to the character, and often they’re in comedy games anyway. Here, he’s supposed to be some sort of amazing hero. The writing of the dialogue is generally bland and the background information is confusing and uninteresting.

All of this is a great shame, because it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into other aspects of the game. It’s especially apparent from the graphics, which are beautifully drawn and definitely a cut above most adventure games. The running animation can look a bit clumsy at times but otherwise the game looks wonderful. The voice acting is also of a reasonable standard: not the best ever but mostly good, despite some weird burger-headed aliens with irritating voices. The cutscenes are very well made too. Then there’s the puzzles, which are more of a mixed bag. There are some good, well thought out puzzles in the game, but there are others that are just too obscure and under-clued. As an example, I had some object called a supran lens and discover a place that looks just the right shape to fit the supran lens. Fine, that’s obvious, I guess I’ll use the lens there then…oh… Rhodan says I can’t do that. If only the game included a feature to ask him why the hell not. Then there’s a scene involving repairing a lift, where you often have to click in very specific locations or what you’re trying won’t work. It doesn’t help that you have to complete several tasks to get the lift working with no real idea why you’re doing them.

Rhodan Wrong information
Not only is this way more information than I wanted, but I’ve only just now noticed that it’s wrong. “Control panel for maintenance unit” does not contain a plural indicator “s” at all! (click to enlarge)

There are some other problems too. I spent ages running around the first few rooms not knowing what to do next before eventually having to turn to the walkthrough thinking I was stuck. It turned out there was an exit that was practically invisible in one of the rooms. It was just so close to the exit for a locked door that the exit icons merge with each other so you can’t tell it’s a separate exit. Things like this just shouldn’t be happening. There’d be a lot more pixel hunting too, if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s a scan button. This sends a line across the screen highlighting every hotspot on the screen. It would be nicer if they just didn’t hide the items though. Still, I love when adventure games have features like this, and think it should be standard, so that’s one thing I can praise the game for.

It’s a shame that a game can have such high production values and then fail at just about everything else. With a story that’s completely uninteresting full of characters I couldn’t care less about and too many random puzzles, there just wouldn’t have been enough to keep me playing the game except for my stubborn obsession with completing every game I start. Even one of the little touches that I liked, the fact that at one point the buttons pressed to open a combination lock play the Close Encounters melody, was marred when I watched Moonraker on TV a couple of weeks later and discovered it had the exact same joke. It’s nice to see that so much effort has gone into the making of an adventure game, especially these days, but no amount of fancy graphics can make up for the game being boring and lacking in the gameplay department. This may be a good buy for any fans of Perry Rhodan there might be out there, but I can’t recommend it for anyone else.

Save System Review: You can save anywhere, and the game autosaves regularly. There’s also a quicksave key. You only get 7 different save slots for manual saves though, although it’s not much of a problem for this type of game. There doesn’t really need to be a limit though.
Graphics: The graphics are of quite a high standard, especially for an adventure game. The environments are good quality and the character models aren’t too bad, although the animation does lag behind at times.
Sound: The voice acting is competent but not exceptional. The same can be said of the rest of the sound.
Bugs: I don’t believe I encountered any bugs.
Gameplay: A few good puzzles, mostly early on in the game, but mostly the game just doesn’t quite work.
Storyline: The game does try to have a proper storylines. It’s even quite a major focus of the game. It’s just that it’s so incredibly dull and forgettable.

Arbitrary Final Score: 2 stars

Entertaining pulp fiction or should the game just be pulped itself? Comment in the forums!