A REAH-ality Trip
You're trapped in an alternate reality and you want to go home. It's a strange, myst-ical land, filled with complex puzzles. You are driven to solve these puzzles in hopes of finding your way back. Does this sound at all familiar?
Reah is a Myst clone that one-ups the best parts of Myst, yet leaves most of its weaknesses intact. You play a journalist sent to the planet, Reah. On this world is a strange portal that scientists have been studying. You enter the portal just as it closes for all eternity and end up in another dimension. Your task is to explore this alternate dimension and find a way back to Reah. The story line feels a little derivitive, but like the games it mimics, it is really just a device just to take you from puzzle to puzzle.
Artistically, the graphics are simply breathtaking. Your new dimension is filled with architectural hybrids full of animated detail creating a dually mysterious yet intriguing place to wander. Some of the images will just blow you away. Sequences of moving from spot to spot are animated smoothly with little pixelization. How? The game fills up a whopping 6 CD's in order to contain all that animated footage. Reah is also available in a double-sided DVD version which promises more music and sharper video.
The music is above average, with an ominous chill to it. However, each section's music is looped so it can get pretty annoying after awhile. Sometimes the music actually gets in the way of sound effects that are necessary to solve certain puzzles. Irritating.
The voice acting in the game is simply awful. Reah was designed and programmed in Poland, with the original voices recorded in Polish. English speech has been dubbed in, but the audio doesn't sync with the mouth movements. The english voices don't sound right either, with exaggerated accents and lack of intonation. Your character's voice is dull, piping out the occasional inane comment (i.e. "Oh how I love puzzles."). And for some reason, the opening narration voice sounds like it came from a Monty Python sketch when a more serious voice would have been a better fit.
The few people that populate this dimension look really out of place. Computer graphic backgrounds and actors pasted in from a blue screen don't match right. Some of the characters even have some blue fog around them; it was either done to look eerie and mysterious or just a sloppy job of pasting. Plus, their acting skills are seriously lacking. Some of the actors are also the game's programmers. It really shows. The antagonist of the game looks like a pathetic Emperor Palpatine (from Star Wars... c'mon, get with the program here!) with a moustache; his face and arms are pasted in, but his cloak is digital. It just looks wrong.
Many of the puzzles feel like they were designed for the Mensa elite. If you don't know what Mensa is, you might want to pass on this game. The puzzles mostly deal with image and sound relation, often with some time factor as well. Some puzzles are familiar pattern matching series -- not too tough. Then there is the puzzle where you must run around the room hitting gongs in a specific sequence, creating a continual echo. While your massive echo is still ringing, you must hit a glass door in order to shatter it. If that sounds tougher, then wait 'till you get to the puzzle where you must turn water faucets in a specific sequence to match tonal values given to you on an unreadable map.
You can spend hours in the game just walking around, not fully knowing what to do next. And you can't proceed until you finish that next puzzle. It can get frustrating. Sometimes, if you spend too long on certain puzzles, your character says something cryptic that can clue you into figuring out the answer.
The user interface is easy to understand, but sometimes you must turn to exctly the right spot before being allowed to walk or look where you have to. And you never really feel like you're a part of that world -- more like being in a partially mobile cylinder, allowed to see the pretty art around you.
The ending is sadly disappointing and really brings down the whole experience of the game. For all your work and cerebral trauma, the ending feels empty and abrupt. Reah holds true to the idea that the journey is more important than the goal.
If you're waiting for that third entry in the Myst series and are willing to overlook Reah's faults in exchange for complex puzzles, this game should tide you over... just. If you're looking for more of a full-bodied experience of a game, look elsewhere.