Return to Ringworld is the sequel to the previous game based on Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series of novels (Ringworld). Once again this game is a point and click adventure/puzzle solving game.
After saving the puppeteer race from extermination and uncovering some powerful ancient technology on the first game, Quinn, Seeker of Vengeance and Miranda Rees find themselves searched as fugitives by all three major species, so they go to Ringworld to hide. Once in Ringworld they’ll try to uncover some evidence to clear their names, but they stumble across another universe-threatening plot. This time U.N. general Carson Teal is out to rule the universe by uncovering Ringworld’s secrets, and you must stop him.
This game is way, WAY bigger than it’s predecessor, with hundreds of screens, mazes, etc. Plus you get to play as all three characters throughout the game, a la Day of the Tentacle. This is actually a big part of the game this time around once you get going as the story progresses from the vantage point of each character. Miranda is on the ship for most of the game, but Quinn and Seeker head out together to explore the Ringworld - typically to navigate their way through some form of maze …
Return to Ringworld is basically just a series of mazes … and I fucking hate mazes in adventure games. They needlessly delay story progression and feel bolted on to artificially inflate the time it takes to finish the game. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m playing an RPG I expect there to be dungeons (mazes) I need to map in order to progress, find items, fight monsters, gain experience and so on … but I find it frustrating in adventure games.
You have a comm unit that acts as a navigation tool for some of these mazes, but for others you need to draw maps to keep track of where you’ve been, where you’re going and where key items are located. Again, if this were an RPG … cool … but I know it’s just bloating a fetch quest.
One task Seeker needs to complete in order to get a balloon to escape the spill mountains (I think it was here) is to rid them of a vampire problem by first completing a series of fetch quests to build a breathing mask to prevent the vampire pheromones from driving Seeker mad, then navigating a giant maze to hunt down all vampires and exterminate them. This section of the game honestly felt like it took the majority of my play time as it involved endless backtracking to hunt down these vampires and kill them. You have no indication as to how many you need to kill other than a message that gets displayed when you finally kill them all.
Though the game is much bigger than its predecessor Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch, I found there were some serious detractors from the experience. First of all, the walk speeds are abysmally slow. I know I can play this game on ScummVM, but I chose to play on DOSBox-X instead because I could crank the CPU cycles to Turbo whenever navigating one of the many, many mazes.
Second, though they’re not badly done, there are far too many drawn out cut scenes.
I think the Tsunami artists focused a little too heavily on the filler and too little on the gameplay.
Since this is an adventure game, the story is central to the experience, and in this case it did not disappoint. The character interactions were interesting, the story progressed in a linear fashion and kept me engaged and I looked forward to seeing where it would take me next.
Character interactions will either follow the typical linear progression or offer you a dialogue tree you can follow. The conversations are well written and they do a good job of injecting a lot of elements from the books such as characters, locations, historic events, species and slang (TANJ!). Since I really enjoyed these books as a teenager the settings you were dropped into and the elements of the world you engaged with felt natural.
Background music and sound effects were limited, but present. The music in general mostly felt generic, but I appreciated that it was there as my characters waded through all the mazes (yes, here I go again with the mazes!). All character dialogue is voice acted, and honestly they did a pretty good job of it. I ended up disabling speech and going with just text as I could read faster than the actors could deliver the lines. This is one game that offered support for the Roland MT-32, so if playing in ScummVM or DOSBox you can emulate this interface for some better synthesized tunes (check out a sample of the intro sequence).
Once you make your way through the final maze and defeat Teal by letting a Ghoul get him, you escape to a location that appears to be off the Ringworld. Where did you end up? Maybe we’ll find out in a sequel? Turns out … no, because Tsunami only made these 2 titles. I really did enjoy the story, even if playing the game seemed to get in the way occasionally. If you, like me, made it this far and still hunger for more Ringworld lore, check out the series of books. I guarantee they’ll quench your thirst for Sci-Fi goodness!
As for this game, I’d recommend maybe passing it by. Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch felt like a tighter package and game play experience, which if you’re looking for a quick virtual romp through the Ringworld is likely the better choice.
|Return to Ringworld
See here for a refresher on how we’re scoring these games.