Myst the Mark!
My first encounter with Myst was Sophomore year in college, in the Fall of ’97. I was running a stellar gaming rig that boasted Windows 95 and an over-clocked 133 MHz processor. After suffering the eternal install, I explored the island of Myst by clicking my way through the levels, putting together the clues, and often fiddling around with the junk on my desk looking for the Urdu-like scribbles that passed as reminders.
Myst was a solid game, but I never could finish it. In fact, I never knew anyone who did. The puzzles became so difficult and tiresome, I preferred going to class.
For those of you who didn’t play Myst or weren’t born when it originally released to critical acclaim, it is a heady, point-and-click adventure. The game is set on a strange island and employs a series of clues and interdependent puzzles. By collecting the clues and solving the puzzles, you will hop around Myst Island as The Stranger throughout various Ages of time via a magic book. The puzzles found throughout the island vary from being quite cerebral to simple lever-pulling affairs. However, the sum of the puzzle experience is that of being quite challenging and very slow.
Much to my surprise, Myst has come to the DS some eleven years after my first introduction. I was excited about delving back into the game I never finished, and I expected the stylus-based controls and note-taking tool would help keep me organized. Moreover, Myst DS includes additions to the Rime Age (which wasn’t available with the original edition) and was going to provide me with even more content to plow through. Needless to say, I was optimistic.
Unfortunately, “plod” and “slog” through are more appropriate adjectives to describe gameplay. You see, Myst for the DS hasn’t changed for the better. Actually, Myst DS is a lot worse than the original. Not only will you have to play through the exact same puzzles and scenarios you did when you were a pup, but chances are you’ll never reach the enhanced, arctic Rime Age. Why not? Because you will either be bored to tears, or you’ll be blinded by the ridiculously pixelated visuals long before you leave prints in the freshly fallen snow.
One of the biggest reasons why Myst completely misses the mark on the DS is because the point-and-click, puzzle adventure gameplay is dated and simply doesn’t translate particularly well to consoles, including handhelds. I thought the DS might be an exception, but after a couple hours with the game I can’t see anyone wanting this kind of experience. Truly, Myst is a classic title from a bygone era. As such, publisher Empire Interactive should’ve let bygones be bygones.
So, why did I think the DS treatment would be solid? I’m not sure. I suppose it’s because the stylus-based controls seemed to be perfect for the point-and-click mechanic. Unfortunately, they’re not used well at all. Sure, tapping from screen to screen is easy enough, but knowing where and how to activate the various interactive elements is a nightmare (a lot of this has to do with the graphical issues). This will leave you longing for the old mouse-over prompts of the original.
Furthermore, the notebook tool I was so excited about turns out to be a typewriter-looking keyboard. Not only is tapping out words with the stylus slow and imprecise, but it only lets you jot down word and number-based reminders. I thought for sure the developers would implement a freehand note-taking system like that of The Phantom Hourglass. That way, it would’ve allowed players to take more comprehensive notes, including drawings.
I probably could have lived with the disappointing controls if the presentation had been better. Sadly, the graphics are so bad the game is nearly broken. I’m not joking! I literally could only stare at the screen for about half an hour before my eyes began to hurt. The reason for this is you will constantly be scanning every screen while looking for clues, and the images are so rough and pixelated it becomes difficult to know where to click. This isn’t such a problem on the first few screens, but after a while you’ll be wishing for a larger monitor.
Disastrously, the graphics have simply been ported from previous versions on to the DS. They worked well for the PC in the mid 90s, but they look dreadful on Nintendo’s handheld. In theory, the static environments of the title should allow for highly detailed graphics. In practice, they’re just plain crap! Alas, the enigma surrounding the island of Myst remains elusive, as the putrid visuals thwarted my advance. I simply could not bear staring at the screen due to eye strain. As far as the sounds go, supposedly the audio has been tweaked and re-mastered. Of course, you won’t notice it. In fact, it sounds like the same old Myst that came out of the back of my computer from the internal speaker so many years ago.
Finally, the developer’s probably wished the DS didn’t have dual screens, and the multiple tools they created for the player are only mildly effective. The magnifying glass allows you to more closely inspect both clues and items, but it’s really only handy for reading the scrolls and scraps of paper you’ll find. Then there’s the camera. The camera allows you to take pictures for future reference, but it isn’t sufficient for proper note-taking. In fact, I could only take one photo at a time. There’s a retrieve option, but I could never archive anything. There’s also the notebook for jotting down reminders, but as I mentioned previously, it too is highly flawed. Lastly, the map tool serves as an overarching guidepost for players, but I think the developers just included it to take up the gaping space left by the pesky top screen. After all, you can’t even make out text that identifies each landmark.
In conclusion, Myst was a pre-millennium sensation that, for some unknown reason, keeps getting republished. Consequently, Myst DS is a game you have to avoid like eating Fritos before a first date. If you are intrigued by the concept of Myst, I implore you to pick it up for the PC. First of all, the PC version will only cost you about $10 rather than $30. Second, the world of Myst is actually nice to look at on a full-sized monitor. Third, with all the money you’ll save you can pick up a point-and-click adventure that’s actually cool, like Escape from Monkey Island, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, or Dracula Origin.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.0 Graphics
The graphics are so poor the game is nearly unplayable. 1.3 Control
The stylus and touch screen could have been the perfect combination, but it was not implemented well at all. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The audio has been tweaked, but it sounds like the same old Myst that came out of the back of my computer so many years ago. 2.0
The puzzles are still challenging, but the terrible graphics and rough controls won’t even let you get to the new content.
1.7 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.