Do the words ‘piano puzzle’ mean anything to you? Do they conjure up nights with you and a friend huddled around your Mac LC, listening intently to the dulcet tones coming from your computer speakers while you try to move on-screen sliders up and down to match the sounds coming from an on-screen piano? Do they invoke feelings of wanting to throw your computer out your dorm room window in frustration while your friend tries to placate you with pizza-rolls? If so, then you know the game we’re talking about. For everyone else, welcome to Myst, or in this case, realMyst.
Myst originally came out in the early ’90s and was one of the first to offer players a fully immersive, fantastical world to interact with (albeit in a limited fashion). It has an epic story to discover and mind-bending, often maddening, puzzles. It’s also notable for not holding the player’s hand in any way. You’re not told what to do, where to go, or how to even start. You’re just there, alone in the world, trying to figure out the who, what, where, and whys of this bizarre setting.
We’re going to point that up eventually, right?
Myst was a resounding critical and commercial success, and eventually spawned four sequels, numerous ports and lots of fan fiction. Now Cyan Worlds has brought one of those ports to the iPad. RealMyst is an updated port, originally released for computers in the early 2000s, that features new graphics and sound, a new control scheme, an additional world or ‘age’ to explore, and the ability to delve into the world of Myst like never before.
In the game, you play as the Stranger, who stumbles into the empty and stark island world of Myst. In this seemingly barren land you’ll find out about a man named Atrus who has gone missing, his wife Catherine, and their wack-a-doodle and hate-filled sons, Sirius and Achenar. You’ll also discover a library full of ‘linking’ books, that Atrus has written and can transport the Stranger to other worlds, or ‘ages.” Throughout the game you’ll uncover the mysteries of Myst and the other worlds, along with the truth behind the disappearance of Atrus and of his sons. You’ll have to contend with strange technology and odd devices that seem out of place, unusual and alien worlds, and puzzles that will test your wits and sanity almost to the breaking point.
What sets realMyst apart from the original Myst, and the reason you’ll want to play this version, is the presentation. You no longer travel through the world via a series of clicks that just take you from one static screen to another. No, this is a fully immersive, free-roaming experience that allows you to explore the world via a very intuitive single-finger control scheme. You can go basically wherever you like, see whatever you want to see, and the world is simply stunning. The graphics are lush and beautiful: trees move in the wind, water gently ripples in the sea, lamps sway to and fro, and rain thunders down from overhead. Cyan has done an amazing job of bringing the world of Myst to dazzling life.
Curiousity killed the cat.
If we have any problems with this port, they’re chiefly technical ones. The game has long loading times between worlds, and it occasionally stutters when you turn to look in a different direction. This review was done on an iPad 2, so these problems may not exist on the iPad 3 (the game doesn’t run on the original iPad). Even so, they were minor problems that didn’t significantly detract from the experience.
Also, not having the precision of a mouse made some of the puzzles, again like the previously mentioned piano puzzle, a little difficult to do. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but you should know that you’ll have to take a little extra care when attempting some of the trickier puzzles. You also can’t side step or strafe, so sometimes getting around certain objects takes a little more work then it would in a game with typical first-person controls.
RealMyst is an amazing game, a love letter to one of the pioneers of the graphical puzzle genre, and Cyan did an exemplary job of porting it to the iPad. Despite some technical hiccups, this new version is a great way of delving even deeper into a world of mysteries that some of us grew up loving to hate, but enjoying all the same.