So this is what everyone’s talking about…
What can I say? Myst is the giant of the gaming world. It is the best-selling CD of all time. In fact, Myst was STILL the #2 selling CD-ROM for the month of January, 1998. It changed the way computer games were made. It found it’s way into the CD-ROM collections of millions of gamers and non-gamers alike. It sold like crack, and was just as addictive to many people.
First things first- look at the date of this review. As many of you may know, Myst debuted on the PC around 1994; a whole 4 years ago. Back then, a 486 CPU was top of the line and the winter Olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. That’s a damn long time. Two years later, 1996, Myst found its way onto the PlayStation, hoping to addict those who had escaped it’s evil plan to take over the world. I don’t know what happened in 1996, but two years later, 1998, I’m reviewing Myst for the PlayStation, after the release of it’s successor, Riven. Think of it like the Star Wars pre-quels or something.
So why is Myst the best selling CD of all time? I ask myself that very question. In fact, I sent the game to the top-secret Game-Revolution, underground labs, where our masters, the monkey-scientists, analyze games down to their very binary composition. And their answer? Well, it goes a little something like this…
First we have to pretend we’re living in 1994. Damn they had slow computers! Anyway, Myst had some of the best graphics to be seen on a PC. We’re talking rendered scenery, the standard for today’s games. It still looks great compared to many games today. I’m sure at least 1/3 of the people who bought it, just liked the spiffy graphics on the box. Although there isn’t much animation, much of the game is eye-crack (I’m coining the phrase!). The island world of Myst pulls you right in with it’s superb graphics. Okay, that explains 1/3 of the sales. Let’s continue.
How about the sound? What sound? Myst has little to no music in the background. There are only natural occurring sounds to entertain you as you unravel the mystery. That just makes the game more dramatic and real I suppose; but it is still a little disappointing. There are recorded voices that accompany small video scenes, but they’re poorly recorded and not much to get excited over. Since the SoundBlaster (no suffix) was the sound card of choice back then, you can understand the lack of quality music.
The gameplay is their diabolical secret weapon. Myst was unrivaled in depth and challenge in its heyday. Parents would buy their kids Myst to shut them up for months. The game is incredibly long and has tons of puzzles to work through. And shit if they aren’t hard either. The designers of Myst decided that they didn’t want blatantly obvious puzzles to jump out and give you a big ol’ slap in the face, so they made really obscure and difficult brainteasers. If you’re a pretty sharp person and spend enough time, you’ll find enough hints to solve a puzzle, but you can also get lost endlessly. Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet and can download cool things called ‘walkthroughs.’ But back then, you had to shell out big bucks for those kinds of things. Since Myst had so many difficult puzzles, everyone would ask everyone else about the game, and soon enough word spread throughout the free world that Myst was the game to have.
The story of Myst is where they lost me. You’ve supposedly found a book with a description of a magical island inside. As you are drawn further and further into the intrigue, your world dissolves and you appear in the world of Myst. It is then up to the player to act out what they would do in the same situation. This is also a big part of the hook. Myst is like a role-playing game without all the funky dice or weapons. You don’t even have an inventory. All you do is follow your instincts and try to solve the mystery of the island. The mystery has something to do with some people who’ve been stranded in a parallel dimension. The monkey-scientists were lost too, so they couldn’t tell me much more.
So a combination of a few big factors made Myst what it is today. You can
look at it today and say it’s little potatoes, but back then it was some hot
stuff. Hell, someone even took the time to make a parody of it, called Pyst.
As for me, I have mixed feelings about the game. I understand it was made a long time ago, but I really believe that if I had played it when it first came out, I wouldn’t have liked it very much at all. Myst is a very long and thought-involved game. The pace is very slow; you drag a cursor around and click to turn right, left, move forward, backward, look at something, etc.. There is little to get really excited over in the game because you never interact with any other people or creatures. Plus, the puzzles can drive you insane if you don’t find the corresponding clue.
What makes it worse for the PlayStation version is that TVs have such poor resolution, you don’t even get the full graphical effect of the game. The designers tried to combat the problem by decreasing the game screen and centering it in a box. This helps, but some of the important features are hard to see, such as the writing. I really believe that Myst was meant for personal computers and it suffered in the translation.
So there you have it: my synopsis of the phenomenon called Myst. I’m sure there are those who would have my head for bad-mouthing the game, but being a veteran of games, that’s how I feel. I do applaud and respect Myst because it was revolutionary and did many good things for the industry. By today’s standards, you don’t need to buy this game. You’ll find that you’ve been spoiled rotten by high-end computer animation and gore. Go and get Riven if you want something similar but with today’s technology. But if you still want to experience a big part of gaming history and see what the fuss is all about, give Myst a spin. You might just find something millions of other people have found.