|Interface||1st 360 simple||Real-time||none|
You are ISH, a man summoned to a mysterious, heavenly asteroid by a mysterious goddess. Your task is to dive into humanity's racial memory and recover the ancient stories of gods and heroes, i.e., the Ring (cycle) of the Nibelungen. It is the far future, and humanity is in dire straits: the timeless stories will give humans the inspiration to save themselves. You play in turn the parts of four characters of the Eddas: Alberich, the tyrannical king of the dwarves; Loge, the fire spirit; Siegmund, son of Wotan, a great hero; and Brunnhilde, a Walkyrie.
The story is based upon Richard Wagner's epic opera. I am unfamiliar with the work (except through Bugs Bunny) and I found the story here to be disjointed. In the end I could see how things were supposed to fit together, but, during play, I was completely confused about what was going on and what my goals were. Since the game is not very hard, and most of the puzzles aren't strongly tied to the story, it didn't affect gameplay, but it did rob the game of any sense of grandeur.
Ring is basically four independent mini-games with a framing story, much like Myst or Zork Nemesis. Well, technically they're independent. I found that the stories didn't make much sense in the order I originally played the branches. You should play Alberich before Loge, and Siegmund before Brunnhilde, and Brunnhilde is probably best played last.
There are many challenges in Ring, of diverse types. There are some stand-alone puzzles (including, unfortunately, a slider and a tone matching), there are machines to operate, and there are inventory based problems. Most are easy, but there are a few that are tough. Too often, though, I had no idea what my goal was, and just twiddled my way through the challenges. I.e., it's not clear in a story sense why it's to be done, although I could usually guess what to do because there was simply nothing else to do.
At least it's a nice world to be confused in. The graphic design is by Phillippe Druillet, an artist best known on these barbarian shores for his work in Heavy Metal magazine. His style matches the spectacle of Wagner's accompanying music. While play is first person, transitions from place to place are usually third person animations, so there is a strong identification with the character you are playing. It also serves to show off the costumes in otherwise sparsely populated worlds.
Ring is yet another example of great thematic and artistic concepts shortchanged by the lack of good game design. It's a nice disc to throw on your virtual coffee table, but the gameplay is sorely lacking.