Lately I’ve had the insatiable urge to play some old-fashioned adventure games. I don’t really know why. I think watching so many videos of people messing around in free-form games made me want to start exploring strange worlds in ways that you can’t do in even the best RPGs. So, even though I said I wasn’t going to buy any new games until I finished the clogged up backlog I already have, I bought the Myst series. I tried to play Myst: The Masterpiece Edition, but even after setting it to play in compatibility mode it kept crashing. Fortunately, realMyst is an updated version of the game, & after setting it to play in compatibility with Windows XP, I got to enjoy all of its adventure-game goodness.
In realMyst, you play as yourself, having somehow found a book that transports you into the mysterious world of Myst. While the island is devoid of human life, it’s littered with strange contraptions, machines and a library. As you explore, you’ll learn a man named Atrus explored these strange lands using linking books. He & his family lived here in peace until something happened & he was forced to trap his sons in two different books. Both brothers entreat you to release them by finding the rest of their scattered pages, while warning you against helping the other. Thus leading you to solve puzzles to reach the other worlds.
The original Myst was a point-&-click adventure game, & while realMyst allows for full 360 movement, it still mostly sticks to that formula. You interact with the world by clicking when you see something interesting. Most of the puzzles revolve around observation & experimentation, as you tinker around with the various contraptions until you learn how they work. You have to solve a puzzle to unlock each new world, than solve a puzzle to find the book linking back to Myst, allowing you to bring the pages back. But in the end, you’ll have to choose who to side with.
Narrative: The plot in Myst is rather bare-bones, but I think that was point. You know your goal, & the game gives you a bit more backstory in each world, but the main star is definitely the world itself. You’re sort of like an inter-dimensional sightseer. You learn through observation more than from cutscenes or journals. I have to say, though, if the developers were trying to make it obvious that neither brother could be trusted, they did a good job. I guess it was intentional, because the “true” ending involves helping neither. But they probably could’ve been a bit more ambiguous. The game has four endings, but only the three “false” endings really feel like an end. The “true” ending basically gives you a new small world to explore with no real end point. It feels more like a set-up for future games. And I know it is, because there’s like five more in the series, but a proper “Congratulations, you beat the game,” would’ve been appreciated. Score: 3
Mechanics: Puzzles are usually the name of the game in adventure titles, & realMyst is no exception. Aside from exploring each unique world, solving the puzzles will take up most of your time. Myst is not a game for people who want to find a page with the solution clearly spelled out. I think there’s only one puzzle like that in the entire game, & it’s at the end. No, most of the time you’ll either find clues written down or you’ll just have to tinker with contraptions to figure out what they do. Most of the puzzles work in stages, and your best bet is to interact with an object, then check to see if it changed anything. Let me give an example:
In the second world, the Stoneship Age, turning on a pump drained the water out of the bottom of the lighthouse. At the bottom was a chest with a valve on the side. I turned the valve, & water poured out. But the chest was locked, & the key was chained to the top of the stairs. After exploring some more, I realized that if the chest had no water in it, it would float. So I closed the valve & turned the pump off, flooding the bottom. And sure enough, the chest was floating close enough to the key to unlock it. Which gave me a key to unlock the hatch leading to the top of the lighthouse where I could get power to the rest of the level.
There’s a nice variety of puzzles, as well. You’ll navigate a spaceship through a maze (I highly recommend drawing a map for this), adjust water valves to power elevators, and listen for tones to rotate a ship, to name a few. If I had a complaint about the puzzles, it was that I got stuck on a few occasions over a minor, stupid detail. Like not closing the door on an elevator. But there’s no “adventure game logic,” where you have to use the one random object the devs thought of to solve the puzzle. No matter how convoluted, all the puzzles make sense. And you won’t find yourself doing any pixel hunting, either. If it looks like a thing, run your cursor over it to see if you can interact. Simple as that. With patience, observation & a notebook, there isn’t any puzzle you can’t beat. Score: 5
Aesthetics: Although the graphics are a little aged, they still look pretty good. (If you’re a stickler for good graphics, you can by the realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, which uses the Unity engine.) In my opinion, being able to move freely rather than in pre-rendered stills is a major improvement. Every land has it’s own unique look, even if you only get to explore a small part of it. The game also used some full-motion video for the actors of Artus & his sons. But these scenes aren’t bad. They’re small sections & fit in well with the scenes. I found the acting to be a bit melodramatic, but not to the point that it was distracting. Rather, it was like talking to someone who was just really dramatic. There’s a little music in the game, but mostly the sound is left to the natural ambiance of the worlds. This is important, because some of the puzzles rely on sound. But the music, when it’s there, is fitting, & it fades nicely when you enter or leave its designated area. Score: 4
Replay Value: Average. The game has four endings, but there’s a point you can save just before the final decision so you don’t have to replay the entire game again. If you get the “true” ending, you can go back to explore any of the worlds you want. So overall, there’s not much point in playing the game all over again. In my opinion, the fun in solving puzzles dies the second time around. Score: 2
Overall Score: 4
Final Word: realMyst scratched my exploration itch. If you’re looking for a puzzle game that lets you explore fantastic worlds, realMyst is a good place to start. But be warned: those without patience will likely not enjoy this game!
Console: PC & Mac (original available on PC, Saturn, PS, PS3, PSP, iOS, 3DS, Jaguar, AmigaOS, CD-i & 3DO)
Release Date: Nov. 2000 (original in Sept. 24, 1993)