Myst

Matt Barton's picture

***UPDATE: Links to my reviews of all the Myst games below.***
Whew. I've been working all day on the Myst chapter of the book. I'm actually a good choice for this chapter, since I've played ALL the Myst games from start to finish and have a great love and respect for this venerable series. That said, it's been challenging; the games tend to blur together in my mind. I still think Myst IV: Revelation is the greatest of them all, simply because it had the best graphics and puzzles. Still, I admire III because of its brilliant marble puzzle and voice acting, and the final game for its luxury car interface that I still think is the best ever made for an adventure game. It's *comfortable.* I love it.

I'm also thinking about the crucial question of whether the first Myst is a great game, or whether it was just the right game at the right time. There's no doubt it revolutionized the adventure game genre, but that's a minor genre nowadays. People could play Doom or Myst, and the industry seems to have followed the first choice. Those lovely pre-rendered graphics, FMV segments, and Mensa-like puzzles seem to have been rendered extinct by the BFG. Pity, that.

I'll never forget even in URU the intense experience of emerging onto a platform and seeing the jungle far below. The visuals were just so damn stunning, and the music so appropriate, that I just had to stop and say "This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in a videogame." Those moments are rare. Too bad the failed multiplayer and rushed salvage job made Uru so wretched; I could see potential there (and that's what made it so sad!!)

Although Myst gets all the attention, I still admire The 7th Guest and what others like that were trying to accomplish. I am perhaps alone in thinking that FMV isn't dead. Live actors can do SOOO much more than a 3D model; I don't care what anyone else says on that point. I'm just waiting to see what will be possible as storage space increases and budgets swell.

Links to my reviews:

Comments

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Wow, great comments. Looks

Wow, great comments. Looks like AA is making a comeback!

I like the idea that Myst is a good game for non-gamers, though I think it might be put this way: it's a game for people who want an alternative to the typical game. I bought Riven back when it came out, but mostly just to see what my new computer was capable of graphically. I tried to play it, but it was so hard that I didn't get far, and I didn't like the idea of using a cluebook to solve it. I remember how arduous it was to get past that elevator/tower puzzle thing at the very start of the game. Even later, when I finally got through with the help of clues; looking back I just don't know how they expected anyone to get through it. One of the worst was a little hot spot just above a fish head on a bridge. I talked to several other people who remembered that as well; it was ridiculous to think that you'd just casually point the mouse there and click in the normal course of adventuring.

Mostly, though, the puzzles were challenging but not impossible; just a few real stinkers. Myst III is the only one I was able to complete without going outside for hints, and it has some really marvelous puzzles. I only got stumped once in Myst IV, and that was again a really DUMB puzzle. You were supposed to wiggle the mouse in a certain pattern over a snake; since I'd never had to do a "mouse trail" like puzzle before, I was completely ignorant. It just seemed out of place and totally inconsistent with the rest of the interface. There's also a great monkey puzzle that is really fun, though it's also quite difficult.

Myst V is a great game as well, though I'd probably say IV is my favorite with III just after. Riven is my least favorite after URU, which frankly, nobody should ever be forced to play.

In general, I think the problem with Myst or any other adventure game is that it's too easy to get stumped by bad design. I don't mind having to work to figure out what to do, but there ought to be enough information IN-GAME to get on with it. Leaving out vital information to make it "hard" is stupid; make the puzzles as hard as you want, but at least make it easy to get to the puzzles and learn the parameters of what's expected of you.

* update - lol, I guess I did have to use a hint site for III as well. Only once, though. :)

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
After re-reading all of my

After re-reading all of my old reviews (d'oh!!! should have done that earlier before writing the chapter), I think that all of the games were flawed. Yet they do enough things right to make these flaws all the more tragic; you keep thinking, damn, with a little more playtesting...

I have to respect though, the difficulty that must go into making a good adventure game like this. You have to challenge the player with a clever puzzle, but it must be extremely difficult to make sure he has enough information without giving away the secret. It's also critical to make sure he has a good enough reason to solve the puzzle; the harder the puzzle, the greater the pay off. Generally, though, where the Myst games fail is feedback. The real stinky puzzles never give you enough feedback, and some are so hard, with so many possibilities, that even a brute-force trial and error approach will fail. Still, I think what makes these flaws stand out SO much is that the rest of the game is so wonderful. It's like going to an art museum and seeing those ancient statues with pieces broken off; it's painful to see that and you keep thinking how amazing it must have looked whole. That's how I view the Myst games; they are superb, yet somehow incomplete. With a bit more polish and better feedback (maybe excising a puzzle or two), they could be perfect.

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