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The infodisk said you were to deliver a warning...

It never mentioned an insane Patriarch, Kzinti assassins, Puppeteer genocide, or the fact that the only hope for the future of the universe might be found on a world so immense it could hold a million earths.

A tangled web of intrigue brings together a vengeful Kzin, a kidnapped engineer and a mercenary - alone against a plot which could plunge all of Known Space into total chaos. The Kzinti are on the warpath, the Puppeteers claim innocence, and Ringworld holds the answer - If only you can find it in time....

  • Truly interactive story-line where your input determines the outcome of the adventure.
  • Life-like animation and scrolling in a realistic game environment.
  • Point and click interface with pop up menus.
~ from the back of the box

Interactive and passive; the most difficult thing to get right when designing an adventure game is the balance between these two opposing adjectives. Too interactive, and risk minimising what draws many to the genre in the first place - the story. Tipping the scale into something more passive may help, but go too far and you might as well watch a movie or read a book. Despite looking very promising, Tsunami Media's 1992 Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch sadly suffers from extra weight on the latter side of the scale.

Based on Larry Niven's celebrated book series, Ringworld tells a tale not found in the books. It was hyped as the third story in the series, before the writer himself put pen to paper and wrote The Ringworld Throne in 1996. I have not read the books (and doing a little research for this review has convinced me to rectify that), but from what I can tell the first book's plot is somewhat similar to the game. It certainly namedrops characters and places from it.

The manual based copy protection is presented as a puzzle.  Answers at the top of the given page.
Considering it's one of the few puzzles in the game, I'd rather have it be part of the actual game.

Taking place 20 years after the source novel, you play as a new character named Quinn, a 200-year-old human whose life has been prolonged thanks to a Dune-like drug called boosterspice. The leader of a feline alien race called the Kzinti has vowed revenge on the Puppeteer race over events in the first book. Something to do with genetic engineering and a war between man and cat. Since then, the humans have fostered peace amongst the galaxy using technology a man named Louis Wu - the protagonist of the first book - discovered on his journey.  Given the title of Patriarch, the Kzinti leader has secretly resented their loss in the Man-Kzin war and has plotted revenge for some time. This involves a newly-created warship that can destroy planets, and they have the Puppeteer homeworld in their sights.

Quinn carries an infodisk proving their genocidal intent and is tasked with delivering it to Larry Wu. Unfortunately he is missing, so you begin the game at the doors of the next best thing; the Kzin 'traitor' and Wu's right-hand-man Speaker-to-Animals (aka Chmeee). Before you can break bread, the Kzin army attacks, forcing you to flee along with Speaker. Soon enough, you'll recruit an engineer named Miranda by convincing the Kzin loyalist of their treachery. This merry band mimics the dynamic between Louis, Speaker and Teela Brown, Wu's love interest from the first book.

Right-click opens up the verb icon list. These are Look, Walk, Talk and Interact (left). 
The right icon takes you to the main menu while the middle is your inventory (right).

The adventure you go on, while filled with interesting species, settings and societies, are essentially fetch quests. A Patriarch contacts you, bluntly demanding you collect cube-like McGuffins found on the ring. You'll notice I've not told you much about the gameplay, and that's because there's very little there. Cutscenes - which aren't voice acted, even in the CD-ROM re-release - can go on for many minutes without even a dialogue tree. Many points of interaction, and even some puzzles, are solved for you leaving those that are there underwhelming at best. Some arcade sequences, such as a navigation through a sun field, can be bypassed entirely if you allow one of your companions to take the reigns. Considering the strange, vibrant and surprisingly varied locales you can visit on Ringworld, not being able to do much more than read while there does the whole game a great disservice.

When you do get to twiddle with things, the controls are your basic point-and-click adventure fare. Right-click opens up the menu where all of the relevant icons are found, including talk, look, interact and access to the game options menu. It can be a little frustrating as other than the 'look' function, your icon will default back to 'walk' after every click. This makes pixel-hunting tiresome. Some hotspots are particularly obtuse, even when you know what you want to do. I had trouble exiting the village of the Canyon People because I was required to click on a rock at the very edge of the screen, not the air above it where Quinn will inevitably walk to.

Your ship's encyclopaedia will fill you in with pertinent Ringworld lore (left).
An optional arcade sequence has you dodging light beams in a sunflower field (right).

I wanted to like Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch much more than I actually did. By all accounts, the sequel is a much better game (I'll let you know my take on that one once I've played it). As for the first, I am incredibly annoyed by it. The graphics, story and locations are all primed to make for an excellent adventure. And there are some moments that Ringworld gets very right (a short stint in an sky house for example). For this reason, I cannot suggest adventure fans to give it a wide berth, nor can I say you should jump on it immediately. It's a disappointingly below average game that I half-heartedly recommend you at least give a try.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses ScummVM to allow the game to run on modern PCs. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 60.1 Mb.  Install Size: 125 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch is © Tsunami Media
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. Hm, I love science fiction but I don't like the canon at all, and Ringworld is one of the canon books that I find most offensive- not because it is offensive per se, but because I find it extremely bad, weirdly paced, with awful writing and characterisation and which, as many other scifi books, tries to distract you with big dumb objects. Larry Niven was ... not the best writer around. I like Neutron Star and some other tales I found, and his right wing beliefs joined with Pournelle's gave birth to something as lovely bonkers as Inferno, but the rest I read from him is just bad.

    Recently I was thinking that Avatar, the movie, was a very accurate translation of what that kind of science fiction was about.

  2. Good review. FINISH HIM!