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Myst (PC) artwork

Myst (PC) review

"Today I found an old shoebox in my closet. When I opened it, it revealed a stack of papers, all of them littered with scribbled notes in pencil and quick sketches of strange artifacts, maps, and charts. I began to leaf through, intrigued by the unfamiliar handwriting, until I came to a drawing of an island. Underneath it was scrawled a single word: Myst. "

Today I found an old shoebox in my closet. When I opened it, it revealed a stack of papers, all of them littered with scribbled notes in pencil and quick sketches of strange artifacts, maps, and charts. I began to leaf through, intrigued by the unfamiliar handwriting, until I came to a drawing of an island. Underneath it was scrawled a single word: Myst.

A memory began at once to form in my mind of a ten year-old child hunched before a computer running Windows ‘94, the newest Microsoft desktop. The child clicked away at a mouse, his eyes glued to the screen as ambient music drifted from two massive slate-grey speakers set in front of him. Occasionally the child would look down at a piece of paper and make notes in an uneven hand. Then he would stop and think, examining the writing intensely, as if it held the answer to some deep question. Back in the present I smiled at the notes I’d taken from the shoebox. The writing didn’t seem quite so unfamiliar anymore.

My hands, now much larger and steadier than they had been when they first made the marks, traced the lines of an crudely drawn map showing a vast series of tunnels. A small note next to the map read “the secret is in the sounds.” I flipped forward a few pages and saw the outline of what looked like a spaceship next to a sketch of a piano and a few shakily drawn lines that formed a short musical score. Even now, the notes rang clearly in my mind. Each new page brought up old memories. Here was a chart showing the position of various constellations in the skies above Myst island; here a map detailing the fastest route through a village set in the canopy of trees sprouting from the surface of a beautiful blue-green sea. I saw a note about compasses and had a vision of a ship stuck in a stone island, its cabins filled with exquisite tapestries detailing mythology I would never know the history behind. The single word “library” brought up an image of tomes filled with the observations of a man who could create worlds. A tingle crawled down my spine as I read a warning on the same page proclaiming “don’t trust Achenar.”

I felt a surge of excitement, then, a desire to return to the island of Myst and the many enigmas of its puzzle-riddled landscape. I thought suddenly of my younger cousins, thinking that I would bring them with me; allow them to chance to have the same amazing journey I had experienced over a decade ago. I could already hear, however, their eager voices turning to disappointment as they complained of having to go back to the same worlds twice just to collect some stupid pages. I imagined them laughing at the simple graphics and wondering aloud when the cutscenes would show up. I could see them becoming bored and quickly logging into Gamefaqs to figure out what to do next, the pen and paper I’d placed in front of them completely ignored.

I smiled sadly down at the papers in my hands, remembering just how much work had gone into making the charts and maps, into recording everything that Myst had to offer, and the excitement I’d felt when finally making the connections that would solve a puzzle and open up new worlds to explore; worlds that could only be traversed by observing the physical logic that ruled them. I recalled how, at the time, nothing had excited me more than forging new paths into the dark mysteries surrounding the incredible back stories and vast loneliness of Myst.

For a moment longer I harbored the desire to revisit those worlds. Then I placed the papers back in the box and closed the lid. Sometimes you can’t go back. Sometimes the memories are too precious.


zippdementia's avatar
Featured community review by zippdementia (March 17, 2010)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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If you enjoyed this Myst review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Lewis posted March 17, 2010:

You must be bloody bonkers!
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zippdementia posted March 17, 2010:

Yes, sir!
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randxian posted March 18, 2010:

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LowerStreetBlues posted March 18, 2010:

Is Windows '94 a clever jab or poor memory?
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zippdementia posted March 18, 2010:

Clever jab. Perhaps too obscure, though.
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jerec posted March 19, 2010:

Myst was a really humbling experience. Dad got it for his computer back in the day. I was young then, and not that much of a gamer yet, so I'd just wander around the island tinkering with things, never making any progress. Dad never made much progress either until he came home with a walkthrough he'd printed off the internet. He finished it then never went back.

I tried the game about 7 or 8 years ago, when I was a full-fledged gamer, thinking I could get through it without any walkthrough. But I didn't. Couldn't.

I think that's why people hate Myst. It's easier to hate it and call it a stupid game than just admit it DEFEATED you. I think if it was the only game you owned and you had all the time in the world, you'd be able to beat it. But back then I had Sim City 2000 and a bunch of other games that gave me instant gratification.

I keep thinking one day I'll play Myst, and solve it. But I know I never will.
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Lewis posted March 19, 2010:

It's easy to say the game is stupid and hateful, and not just that it defeated you, because its puzzle logic is so hopelessly ridiculous. A good adventure game gives you a clear goal, with the puzzle being in how you achieve that goal. Myst didn't give you goals. It just gave you levers and buttons, and no feedback as to what they were actually for until eventually you worked it out by mistake and the next bit of the story explained why you had to do that in the first place. Rubbish, unfair, backwards design.
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Suskie posted March 19, 2010:

I'm gonna have to agree. I don't remember if I ever finished this game, but I did wind up using a guide extensively. Thing is, if a puzzle-oriented game is genuinely well designed, it makes me feel guilty for not having solved its riddles on my own after I've looked up the answers. Myst never gave me that. There were no "Oh, of course that's what I was supposed to do!" moments. Like Lewis said, all the game does is drop you in front of a bunch of levers and dials that make noises when you click on them.

I played Myst when I was much younger (it came free with my family's PC in, what, 1997?) and I think it's the primary reason I hate adventure games to this day. Though it's reassuring to see that plenty of the people who typically love this sort of thing acknowledge that Myst is crap.

On a side note, my mother likes this game.
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zigfried posted March 19, 2010:

My disdain for the game has nothing to do with being defeated. I didn't like Myst because it was brown. It didn't have the scrolling of a dungeoncrawler. There were no monster encounters. No interesting people to talk to. It's a very dull game that could only be redeemed by being an altogether different game.

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zippdementia posted March 19, 2010:

I had no trouble with Myst.

Riven, on the other hand....
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randxian posted March 19, 2010:

Maybe it's not the best video game of all time. Maybe it really isn't very good. Either way, I think some of you are missing the point.

The whole goal is to simply explore the island and enjoy the sights and sounds. Personally, I enjoyed the non-linear aspect and how you were able to explore the island at will, granted you could solve the problems. If I remember correctly, there is nothing stopping you from exploring the individual islands in any order you wish. The game is absolute freedom. No time limits. You are free to explore, experiment, and learn because you don't have to worry about dying. Sure, the game may not help you, but it doesn't punish you either.

If you get in too big of a hurry and only care about beating it, then yes, it's going to come off as a terrible game. If you take your time and enjoy everything it has to offer, then it's a unique gaming experience. The idea is to play with all the levers and buttons until it starts to eventaully make sense. Notice I said unique, not necessarily good. Personally, I think it's a good game, but I can understand why it may not be everybody's cup of tea.

Maybe it's just my personality. I don't like to hurry. I don't like overly stressful games. I like games that let the player fiddle around and experiment without consequences. Myst offers all that.
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bloomer posted March 19, 2010:

Most people would say broadly that genres of games have improved over the history of videogaming from their earliest forms. Adventure games (IE solve a series of puzzles in a world to progress, not in real time, and without action) became very good very quickly in the very beginning. Then there was King's Quest, and then there was Myst, two mighty strides backwards in my book.

People aren't still making games like King's Quest, but they are still making games like Myst. It's interesting that a game this reviled for the kinds of reasons Suskie and Lewis mentioned, which is basically how I feel about it too, became a blueprint for the delivery of commercial adventure games. The games got a lot more beautiful than Myst, but the gameplay was permanently stymied. I played a bunch of those Lovecraft inspired point and clickers in the early noughties, and the graphics were awesome, and they should have had a bunch of forward propulsion, but they were vile and maddening to play.

King's Quest removed written English from the presentation of the gameworld, and Myst removed typed English as the means of interacting with it. Bizarrely, I don't think anyone has replaced those elements with things that work anywhere near as well. They solved a million conceptual problems to do with the transparency of the gameworld and the player's sense of agency and purpose, that anyone who has tediously dragged a mouse over a graphic looking for stupid hotspots or gettable items could appreciate.
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2010:

Myst had a beauty all its own, though. As Randxian pointed out, it was a slow-me-down kind of beauty that let you look around at the worlds you ended up in and think... "what if?" For me it was the backyard treehouse I never had come to life... the mystery of the dry lake in the graveyard across the street made explorable... it was a chance to witness the imaginations of two brothers who sat down to make a game.

I've heard a lot of hate for Myst on this site, but everywhere else I go people still love it. It's one of the best selling games of all time, despite little advertisment, and has spawned many sequels that all went on to do well. Sales don't make a game great, but I think it's an indicator that there's more there than is being given credit.

I also think maybe you guys looked at it too much like something to be conquered... to be beaten. It was, and I know some people hate this, meant to be an experience. However cliche that may sound today, at the time it was nearly unheard of. That's what made Myst special.

Like today, some people love EXPERIENCE games... others... well... don't.

That said, if you don't have that feeling, that love, for the game... you never will. My review tries to capture that.
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randxian posted March 19, 2010:

I also think maybe you guys looked at it too much like something to be conquered... to be beaten. It was, and I know some people hate this, meant to be an experience.

Exactly. If you approach it with a "I must conquer this game" attitude, you simply won't get much out of it.

But I suppose given it is a completely different dynamic, it may not be for everyone.

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