XBOX REVIEW: MYST IV: REVELATION

There are those that swear by Myst, and there are those that swear at Myst. Known for its complex and esoteric puzzles as well as its stunning scenery, this point-and- click adventure game has been an old-school, PC classic for many years. Myst IV for the Xbox remains true to its PC roots but it's been streamlined and upgraded to make it more accessible for beginners while not dumbing down the very elements that have made this series so popular.

Porting a point-and-click game to the Xbox can be a hit or miss proposition. Console gamers are by nature more interested in real-time action. It's reflex over cortex for the most part. Console gamers don't want to think too much. Myst IV requires a great deal of thinking and focus. You'll be required to do a lot of investigating, research, reading and trial and error.

The puzzles are much more logical and intuitive than in previous installments - but they will still smoke your brain. Fortunately hints are provided which will help put you in the right direction or solve the puzzle for you altogether if that's what you want. For each puzzle there are three levels of clues. The first clue will give you a small hint which in no way even comes close to revealing the puzzle. This first clue might even confuse you more. The second clue gets more revealing but still leaves you to discover the answer on your own. The third clue is the spoiler. It breaks down the entire puzzles for you leaving you only to go through the motions. You don't have to use these clues if you don't need them but they're a great addition for beginners.

As any Myst fan will tell you the game requires a different approach than your average videogame. You have to be relaxed and patient which typically requires that you play the game in privacy which is one reason that the PC version has always been the medium of choice. That and because until the Xbox, there was no console version that could do the game justice. You can thank Myst for raising the graphics bar for videogame to incredible heights.

Thanks to plenty of cutscenes there's not as much text to pour through. You'll be able to witness flashbacks of activities which took place in certain levels instead of just reading about them in journals. You'll also be equipped with a camera so that you can document your journey and have a visual record of all the cryptic clues that you come across which may be used for solving puzzles down the line. I'm sure that even Myst purists wouldn't bitch at these new features.

As a nameless and faceless protagonist, your adventure begins as you prepare to help a family from another dimension reunite with their offspring. Atrus is the head of the family. As a D'ni, he's part of an ancient race that has escaped the destruction of his civilization by traveling to a series of worlds known as Ages. These Ages are actually books, created by those that have the gift known as The Art. The worlds are linked together and may be visited by those that have the power or can solve the puzzles. Atrus's sons have been exiles to a couple of these Ages after they were caught destroying some of the writings responsible for the creation of these ages. Your task is to help Atrus locate his boys and see if they've learned their lesson.

You're main method of control will be with the cursor which you dart around the environment looking for hot spots. If you roll over anything that requires more investigation the cursor will turn into a magnifying glass. It's not as easy to control as a mouse but since there is no other choice there's no use in complaining about it. The D-pad controls the camera which you will use to photo-document your adventure. Not only will these photos help you to solve future puzzles but you may just want to view the spectacular scenery over again.

Myst has always been an amazing looking game. The Ages display highly imaginative environments that reflect different dimensions of ancient civilizations. These renderings used to be static but still looked incredible. In Myst IV these worlds come alive with animated waterfalls, windswept trees and various birds and other creatures. It's still not a totally interactive environment but it sure looks like it. You're confined to various paths, ramps, walkways and boardwalks but the scenery is always off in the distance so you don't really notice that it's not interactive.

Real actors are used in the cutscenes. There are some corny moments but it sure beats having to read all that text. There is more than one hour of these scenes. The soundtrack is a perfect compliment to the gameplay and helps to get you into that meditative state required to focus on the gameplay. The story will help maintain your focus since it's very compelling and the puzzles-with-a-purpose will help tie in all the elements.

This is the best point-and-click adventure game available on the Xbox. Rabid Myst fans will want to play this on the PC but this is such a good port that, other than improved visuals, you'll be experiencing the Ages of Myst as they were intended to be explored.

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System: XBOX
Dev: Ubi Soft
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: March 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.0