|A Spoiler-Free Cure for Fear of Myst|
June 13, 2001 | Joel Sparks
With the release of Myst III: Exile, the Myst series reaches a total of three games. That’s 10 CD’s of the unique Myst mix of pretty pictures, intricately designed worlds, and abstract puzzles. The first game came out in 1993 and has long been considered a classic. In fact, it proved so popular that it spawned not just two sequels but two “new and improved” versions of itself, numerous official and unofficial strategy guides, T-shirts, a soundtrack, and a handful of novels. However, you can ignore all that. The novels are strictly for fanatics; there’s nothing in them that you need to know to play. The Myst games may be hard to win, but they are easier to learn than Tetris. Unless all you want to do is look at the pictures, using a spoiler-filled strategy guide would destroy the whole point of playing Myst.
Your humble reporter has now clicked his way successfully thru Myst, Riven: The Sequel to Myst and Myst III: Exile. For those who have never tried, who have given up in frustration, or who need a little confidence boost before tackling Exile, I offer some general tips for playing these games. I’ll also tell you how the latest game differs from the two that went before.
What makes it Myst?At its core, a Myst game is a collection of interlocking logic puzzles in a beautifully-rendered environment of photo-quality images and convincing sounds. There is no “action” to speak of beyond pointing and clicking. There is some full-motion video where appropriate, but things almost never happen in real time. You can’t talk, you can’t see yourself, and you can’t even get killed -- usually. Yet, the games are far from boring. The densely detailed worlds that contain the puzzles are not simply decoration. Every detail is a clue, or a red herring, or another tiny element that goes to make the world seem real. Sunlight slants thru trees; shadows pool mysteriously; ancient machines sport Victorian ironwork; stylish lamps reflect the tastes of a room’s occupant; steam hisses; wind howls; water washes up and down. It’s by soaking in this thoroughly-realized universe that you get a sense of how things work, what to try, and where events will lead.
The dramatic plots that keep the pressure on may not be to everyone’s taste. Although, it doesn’t matter. Most of the time, you’re left alone to wander thru the lush environment, learning and experimenting at your own pace. It’s downright luxurious and the correct solution to a puzzle is often rewarded with spectacular special effects, all the more thrilling because they’ve been earned by your efforts.