Myst: Masterpiece Edition
It isn't a new game by any means, but Myst has enthralled gamers for almost two decades. The remade Myst: Masterpiece Edition continues that tradition with better visuals and a remastered musical score. Originally released as an early CD-ROM game, Myst has since been ported to more than a dozen different gaming platforms, most recently receiving an iOS version for iPhone and iPod Touch owners to enjoy. Myst is a point-and-click adventure that takes place through a series of still scenes as you journey through a (mostly) uninhabited land of steam-powered machines and mysterious contraptions that fuel unknown devices. As you poke your nose around every corner and through every door, you eventually discover more of the plot and backstory, doubling the intrigue and drawing you ever deeper into the world that is Myst.
Throughout the main island of Myst you, as an unnamed stranger, will come across several books that somehow transport you to different worlds (ages). Traveling to these places drops you in new environments with their own set of contraptions to discover, locations to explore, and puzzles to solve. You'll also discover a red and blue book housed in the library on the main island. Investigating these produces very little information at first, but perhaps if you recover the red and blue pages from other ages, something interesting might occur?
Myst is entirely mouse-driven. To move from area to area, move the cursor to the edge of the screen or just click where you want to go. Cursor changes will indicate when you can travel to different places or interact with objects. You never know what will happen when you click on something, either, which is part of the charm of the game.
Analysis: Myst is a quiet, slow game of exploration and endless mystery. Each area you walk through is filled with things to look at, each one adding another question mark in the grand scheme of things. What's that lever there for? Why doesn't it make a sound when I switch it? Where do those stones lead? Is there anything over this hill? It's no accident Myst has been hailed as one of the greatest point-and-click games of all time, even so many years after its initial release.
There are very few words that describe Myst better than "epic". The story is epic, the puzzles are epic, the setting is epic, the music is epic, and the sense of wonder is beyond epic. Very little language is used to tell the story, allowing you to roam the islands with only the thoughts in your head to keep you company. Most puzzles use symbols you have to decipher as opposed to letters or numbers, so even if you're a seasoned point-and-click gamer, Myst won't seem all that run-of-the-mill to you.
Drawbacks? Apart from its increasing age (which isn't as much of a problem as most 20 year old games), there is very little to find fault with Myst. The series isn't without its anti-fans, though, and the most widely-cited criticism is the game is little more than an interactive slideshow. While Myst may not be as interactive as most modern games, it isn't trying to interact with your reflexes or your mouse, it's interacting with your brain. Thinking about things you've seen while wandering the island is important to solving the puzzles, so if you aren't thinking, you aren't playing. And if you aren't playing, you might as well be watching your aunt's vacation slides from Maui.
There are a number of "modernized" versions of Myst available, the most notable being realMYST and Myst: Masterpiece Edition. The former turns Myst into a free-roaming 3D experience, while the latter is a graphical overhaul that improves the look and feel of the game without changing the core experience. And let's not forget the four sequels, especially the amazing Riven.
So many years after its initial release, Myst still looks good and plays well, even to our "high graphics budget"-spoiled eyes. If the content of a game is more important to you than anything else, Myst is practically the unsurpassable goal all other games strive to equal.
Note: This review is for Myst: Masterpiece Edition, a 2000 update from the original with identical gameplay but with digitally remastered music, visuals re-rendered in 24-bit truecolor, and some redone cinemas.
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