In a way, you could say that Myst was the original escape game. It had all of the major features we've come to expect: items hidden in bizarre locations, puzzles that seem completely opaque until you stumble upon the solution, and above all, no way to leave until you solve every single puzzle.
Myst also had two things that are often missing in escape games: Stunning graphics and a storyline that made all the puzzles fit. Vital clues were often hidden amongst story elements in books or drawings, and if you managed to figure them out yourself, solving the puzzles was very rewarding.
Keep that mindset at hand, because you'll need it for this game. Bianco-Bianco's Magical Sphere Escape has a central puzzle and story that, with some major polishing, would have fit perfectly in the original Myst.
The story of Magical Sphere Escape revolves around God's imprisonment of Enchaki in the Patio of Genesis, a sort of inverted version of the exile from the Garden of Eden. The story is told in the descriptions of items, people, and places, and gradually reading it as you encounter each element really adds to the experience.
Unfortunately, the story (and its hints) didn't make it into the game itself, so you'll need to open this page in another window and switch between them as you play. Without it, you'll be lost, as we at JIG discovered the hard way. (One reviewer said she was "completely baffled within three seconds of playing.")
Even more unfortunately, the story's English translation is quite rough, including one item that has the wrong description entirely. JIG to the rescue! Open up the spoilers for a more polished translation:
Patio of Genesis
The main world of the game. As one of Enchaki's descendants, God has sent you here to take Enchaki's place and atone for your ancestor's sins. Can you solve the mystery and redeem your people?
The World of the Desert
God made this world as part of Enchaki's prison. The blistering sun punishes all who fall beneath its gaze.
The World of Wind and Sea
God forced Poseidon to make this part of Enchaki's prison, even though Poseidon was in Enchaki's debt.
Those who fall from the Patio of Genesis land in Hell, God's final trap for Enchaki. None have ever escaped from Hell.
The Door of Eden
In the ancient past, Enchaki tried to open the Door of Eden without permission, and so angered God. In response, God locked the door and sealed Enchaki in the Patio of Genesis. The people of Enchana, Enchaki's descendants, have been exiled from paradise ever since.
The Door of Silence
This door leads to the World of the Desert. A golem protects the way back, and will only allow those who are silent to take what they find in the desert.
The Door of Unrest
This door leads to the World of Wind and Sea. Poseidon himself protects the way back, and will only open out of gratitude to Enchaki.
Eye of the Fool
This door lies hidden between the Door of Silence and the Door of Unrest, and it is one of the mysteries God created for Enchaki. Only those who have made an offering to all three doors may pass this one freely.
Landmarks in the Patio of Genesis
Bed of Strength
One of God's mysteries, this broken hammer represents the strength that God took from Enchaki.
Poseidon created this tank of healing water, against God's wishes, to help repay the debt he owed Enchaki. The water is fresh, to keep God from noticing Poseidon's work.
Altar of Seal
This altar holds the seal that God placed on the Patio of Genesis to trap Enchaki. It must be broken before you can return to the blue planet, your home.
Stick of Enchaki
Long before he was trapped, timid and foolish Enchaki used this stick to save Poseidon's life, putting Poseidon in his debt. Poseidon enchanted the stick with sea magic, but it has since been soaked with fresh water to hide it from God.
Goblin's Sand Plate
The goblins who live in Hell eat their favorite food, sand, off of woven plates like this. This one appears to be the real thing, made in Hell.
Glass of the Goddess
As part of his ongoing debt to Enchaki, Poseidon taught glassmaking to the people of Enchana. When God learned of this, he confiscated the Glass of the Goddess, one of Poseidon's artifacts, as punishment for Poseidon's actions.
Cloth of Orihalf
This mysterious bag is made of orihalf, made from a byproduct of producing orichalcum. It is said that orihalf is so finely woven, it can hold the elements themselves.
Hammer of Strength
This hammer, made of orichalcum, is material proof of the strength that God took from Enchaki.
Scoop of Silence
This scoop is given only to those who have become people of the desert. It proves that you have learned silence.
Base Material of the Sphere
This sphere of lapis (a semi-precious blue stone) is the base material for a magical sphere. It must be given the powers of wind and flame before it is complete.
This unnamed planet is similar to Earth, but has only primitive civilization.
A legendary hero of the blue planet, said to have had incredible powers. It is also said that he was a foolish person who twice defied God.
People of Enchana
These carefree people of the sea live on the blue planet. Legend has it that they are the descendents of Enchaki.
A dolphin was the first friend Enchaki made after being cut off from the blue planet. Being people of the sea, the people of Enchana worship dolphins. It is said that they are messengers of Poseidon.
Got all that? Good. Despite its flaws, Magical Sphere Escape is one of the best escape games I have played. There are a couple places where you'll need your Veteran Escaper Sense™ to find a clue or item, but the major puzzles are astonishingly logical. Playing Magical Sphere Escape evokes that Myst-like sensation of not just solving puzzles, but solving history.
But don't just take my word for it; experience it yourself!