There are only a few truly monumental moments in video game history, a small
number of games that have fundamentally changed the cultural landscape. However,
it is clearly the case that Myst was one of those games, and
its heyday was one of those moments. When Myst became the best-selling
PC game of all time (a title it held for eight years), video games were no longer
just for kids. Gaming had suddenly risen to a new level, a respectable and artistic
level, and it was no longer possible to simply dismiss it as childish entertainment.
And nothing could make Myst more mainsteam than porting it to a console. This is also a boon to casual gamers, who are generally ignored by console game deveolpers who think using two small analog sticks to strafe while jumping and shooting is a universally known talent. A port of the PC version, Myst on the Xbox is a slow and thoughtful game, but one that doesn’t quite live up to its PC parent.
In the original Myst, players slowly wandered around beautiful,
fantastical environments composed of pre-rendered, two-dimensional stills. To
progress, you had to solve mind-bending puzzles designed to challenge Mensa
veterans in an effort to slowly unravel the story of two deranged brothers,
Sirrus and Achenar, and the strange book-worlds their father created, which eventually
became their prisons.
a good chance many of you already know all of that, but despite the fact that Myst sold
a monster six million copies, I’m aware that ten years after the fact, many
younger readers have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. So just take my
word for it when I say that Myst
IV: Revelation is a true sequel, sticking to the exact same formula
that made the original such a smash. You wander through detailed, picturesque
otherworlds, solving challenging logic puzzles while uncovering the story of
a missing girl and the fates and ambitions of our old demented friends, Sirrus
Unlike Real Myst or Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst
IV: Revelation is not a 3D game. Like in the days of yore, players move
via fade-to-black transitions to new locations, which these days aren’t exactly
2D, either. In every Myst
IV location, you can turn around and look in all directions – including
up and down – much like in a Quicktime
And you’ll do a lot of looking around, because the game’s scenery is a gorgeous
as ever. Apparently, the tradeoff for not having actual 3D environments is an
unbelievable level of detail. Water flows, boughs sway, insects buzz by, leaves
flutter, and birds land near you, snatching at invisible crumbs. If you could
actually move from your fixed position, the graphics would put Doom
3 to shame. But you can’t move, except to teleport to a new position and
fading to black and back, which makes the graphics more of a cool trick than
an immersive world.
The only problem is that the Xbox just isn’t quite up to the task. Images are not as sharp as on the PC, which makes finding some of the key interactive parts of the screen more difficult. In particularly busy scenes, the screen can stutter a bit when you look around. An even bigger problem is that there is a short loading time every time you move to a new position. It’s not long, only a second or so, but it happens so frequently, it’s enough to drive you nuts.
Your constant companion throughout your journey is a disembodied hand floating
on the screen. It’s pretty smart, and if it moves over something it can manipulate, it will grasp out. When it passes over an interesting object, it whips out a magnifying glass. Click, and it does exactly what you would expect it to do. The interface is staggeringly easy to use, removing the need for tutorials or large instruction manuals, and like the original Myst, opens up the game to expert and casual gamers alike.
can also use your hand to tap, and I only mention this because you end up doing
it constantly for no particular reason other than to assure yourself that the
world is real. You can tap your finger on any nearby object, producing the appropriate
noise. This has no real purpose, but it makes the world feel more visceral. Tap
on a flowerpot and it clunks. Tap on a pillow, or paper, or the metal railing,
or a thousand other objects and the precisely appropriate sound greets your ears.
It’s oddly reassuring. Tap near a gecko and it will scamper off, or tap the bucket
of water to watch some perfect ripple effects. If you like tapping on things,
this is the best game ever made. Obsessive-compulsives will be in heaven.
Of course, there are more noises here than just tapping sounds, and Myst
these well. Dragonflies buzz by your head, wind whistles through the trees,
and the haunting, low-key music apparently has enough to do with Peter Gabriel
that his name appears in the credits. I personally haven’t been allowed this
close to Mr. Gabriel since the restraining order.
He is also one of the voice actors in the game, and although you don’t see him, there is proper video of all the other actors integrated right into the in-game graphics. I hadn’t realized how much I missed real actors wandering their way through video games (which nobody seems to do anymore) and honestly it hasn’t
been done this well since the video segments in Command
and Conquer or Wing Commander.
it’s clear quality, Myst
IV: Revelation just might not do it for contemporary gamers. Games have
come a long way since Myst, and while that doesn’t always mean
gotten better, you cannot get around the fact that the gameplay here feels dated.
The puzzles are tough and well-designed, but they’re still totally obtuse. If
you’re the type of person who runs for the walkthrough every time you can’t figure
out where Lara has to push a stone block, you’re not going to like this game.
Myst IV is for thoughtful gamers with no interest in
quick twitch mechanics. Plenty of rewards are here for those patient and smart
enough to get them. Revelation doesn’t come with a free copy of Myst III like the PC version did, but the $20 price tag means you get a lot of game for your money, and this is certainly no rental, because you will not beat it in a weekend.
Like most of the free world, I was crazy for the first Myst and
didn’t stop until I had solved it, although these days, papa’s got a brand new
bag. For better or worse, my sensibilities have changed with the times, and likely,
so have yours. But if you’re the type to obsess over increasingly difficult crossword
IV: Revelation is more than a nod to history – it’s your future…on the PC. This Xbox version tries hard, but technical issues make this only the second-best Revelation available.