Rhem 4

Sat Mar 26, 2016

About five years ago, I swore that I would finish Rhem 4 without hints. Though I haven’t been trying the whole time, I worked on it quite hard over the last week or so. I failed, yes. I’m going to take this opportunity to brag about what I solved without hints and complain about the two puzzles that I didn’t.

First, the complaining, as suits my nature. After finishing the game, I read through some reviews, walkthroughs, etc., and I was satisfied to find that most of them mentioned one of these puzzles as being exceptionally difficult, though not for the reason that I found. The first puzzle I was stuck on, more than five years ago, involved what one deservedly forgotten Neoplatonist called the “shadows of the spheres.” What was bad about it, from my admittedly fair and judicious perspective, is that it was far from clear in the rendering which were the vampires. That ambiguity, combined with the (logical) finishing permutation, made the puzzle unsolvable. Since I couldn’t be sure which ones were the vampires, you see, I never would have gotten to the stage where I contemplated the permutations. If the rendering had been clear, I would have.

But that’s a minor inconvenience compared to the hellish rock park. I think the game’s designer must understand that screenshotting various diagrams is the only way that many of the puzzles can be solved. I even had to use ImageMagick’s handy append function to integrate about six frames for one Enigma machine. With the rock park, however, the key is a hover-over that cannot be screenshotted. Furthermore, the symbols themselves are impossible to duplicate by hand, at least for someone who often struggles with ‘drawing’ on the ‘right’ ‘side’ of ‘my’ ‘brain,’ especially when beset by symbolia. Worst of all, however, is that this clue:

Very much suggests that it refers to the specific shapes of the rocks themselves. Furthermore, you find a screwdriver at one point with rock fragments beside it, suggesting that someone has crudely sculpted small depressions in the rocks that would be identified by this diagram. The rocks themselves are of different heights and widths, but none of them match this diagram exactly.

Apologists will now point to the three panels as proof that one-to-one matching would not be logical. Fine. But given the perspective, matching the ones in your field of vision from that panel is ambiguous at best. I contemplated doing this, but the friction of the symbols that represent each rock prevented me from experimenting with it too much. So I gave up. Happy?

(What happens after is not much better, in my opinion, but it’s at least more solvable.)

Now for some self-congratulation. Another aspect of the game involving rocks defeated many other players, but I noticed it myself. My children, who were quite taken with this game for some reason, helped me see another tricky puzzle involving subtle change. (I don’t count this as a hint.) The Rhem series itself, despite my personal inadequacies at solving them without (minor and few) hints, are the best-designed games of their type. I certainly hope that there’s another one coming.

I was going to include a d3 tree layout of all the puzzles in the game, to show how complex it is, but the default layout does not allow for multiple parents, which many of the puzzles would have. So maybe that’ll wait for another day.