Back in the day, when CD-ROMs were all the rage (that would be the ’90s) Cyan Worlds made a killing with their moody and atmospheric– if empty– adventure game Myst. Myst was an incredible sensation with its photo-realistic graphics, intriguing puzzles, and slide-show style navigation system. The sequel, Riven, was released to similar fanfare. It didn’t deviate much from the original’s slow-paced exploration and puzzles, but it was much larger.
Now available on the iPad, Riven feels more than a little like an out-of-place historical artifact. While the original game was a gorgeous picture show of creative locations, those graphics have aged significantly. The resolution of the iPad’s screen is far above that of the original PC version and the visuals now look grainy and muddy. The full motion video segments look positively awful as well.
Adding to the age is the navigation system. Simply tap forward or slide to turn and the game doesn’t scroll, it just throws up another still shot. The problem is that if you can’t go in a direction, it simply throws up the closest direction you can move in, which can get confusing. The jerky nature of movement in the game just doesn’t fit well in today’s world.
So, while Riven is still an atmospheric and engaging (if lonely) landscape, with some devilish puzzles, it’s also a world that requires the player to accept its limitations in order to enjoy. Cyan’s games were some of the original hidden object-style adventure games in a way, and it’s a genre that seems to endlessly flood the App Store. From that perspective, it’s worthwhile to check out where these current “adventures” came from, but it would have been far more interesting had Cyan actually taken the time to give Riven the update to new technology it deserves.
Riven was a decent and interesting game when first released many years ago, but even then this series had a lot of detractors since it relied most heavily on its atmosphere over game play design style. The puzzles are still intriguing, but there’s little to do other than wander around, find the right spot to tap or room to visit, and pull switches. This sort of game feels natural on the iPad, but with its shortcomings, it’s hard to recommend Riven to modern gamers.