MYST (DS) review
"Sensibilities and expectations have changed over the last 15 years, but not much else has. The game is still a collection of wondrous locales which we must navigate in the crudest of ways—through a poverty of frames such that turning around brings to mind a herky-jerky slide show. Impossibly, the game actually looks worse – far worse – than it did when it first reared its innovative head in 1993."
I missed the phenomenon the first time ‘round – and it’s not because I wasn’t a PC game player, because I was. I was just too caught up in the early Infogrames forays into what we now know as 'survival horror', namely, the Alone in the Dark series, to be bothered with what essentially looked like the kind of 3D tour that real estate agents use to help sell homes.
Let's fast-forward to 2008. A copy of Myst for the Nintendo DS arrives at my home, pleading with me for attention. I offer my attention excitedly, mainly to see what all the fuss was about. After a time it dawns on me that by playing this version, and playing it now, I will never know what all the fuss was about. Because whatever the PC original Myst was in its time, it’s a terrible DS game today.
Sensibilities and expectations have changed over the last 15 years, but not much else has. The game is still a collection of wondrous locales which we must navigate in the crudest of ways – through a poverty of frames such that turning around brings to mind a herky-jerky slide show. Impossibly, the game actually looks worse – far worse – than it did when it first reared its innovative head in 1993.
And I say innovative because I want to be fair to Myst. There really was a credible reason for it being one of the top-selling games of all time. It presented what I can only clumsily describe as a moral-cum-fantasy exploration; a gorgeously imagined otherworld of cyclopean architecture, mist-blanketed paths and obscure, non contextual puzzles.
You begin in the dark, and by fiddling with switches and perusing magic books in grand libraries, a husk of a myth is revealed. I imagine how engaging it must have been in its day – consider the prospect of uncovering little by little of its moral mystery while drinking in the unique beauty of your surroundings. Despite the 3D tour criticism, I would think the experience would have elicited an uncommon satisfaction.
Unfortunately, today that satisfaction has been crushed underfoot by an army of factors. Before even touching on the DS version’s specific limitations, Myst, even Myst as it was meant to be on the PC in unadulterated form, has aged terribly. The cache that the once-resplendent locales brought to the table is all but gone – we’ve seen better looking fantasy worlds through the years. The story is creative, but it isn’t quite the timeless near-myth Myst fans might have once convinced themselves it was. And the slideshow presentation? Jarring and archaic, to today’s gamer.
To make these matters that much worse, the DS takes the fading star and devalues it further with even jerkier “animations”; coarse, grainy visuals which destroy any remaining vestige of fantastical charm the game had; and douses the failed port with harsh and irritating sound effects just for good measure.
Normally, in conclusion of reviewing a weak, watered down version of a game, my advice is obvious: seek out the superior source material. Only this time, the step up in quality doing so provides isn’t worth the trouble. Myst flounders badly alive in the present day; much better to stay retired and accept its prominent place in the gaming annals.
Staff review by Marc Golding (August 15, 2008)
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