[Review] Myst (PC): The Canon for Adventure Gaming

Here it is, where modern adventure computer games began: Myst.

If you have never heard of it, here is the history lesson: it’s from 1993, and was the best-selling PC game after its release, until The Sims exceeded its sales in 2002. It was originally made for the Mac, and much later ported to practically everything else.

(Photo: maximum games)

I played Myst with the hubs last weekend; one of us on mouse, the other navigating (or, *ahem, checking a walkthrough…) Our work schedules recently changed which means these days we don’t see each other during the week. Luckily, with weekends off together, we can plan our moments. This past weekend we went thrift shopping and found not one, but TWO copies of Myst. We got home, and decided to load up the game – why not?

In the game you are a stranger who finds yourself with a book on an island called Myst. This book can transport you to different locales. Along the way you meet two men – brothers – who are trapped in two separate books in a library on Myst. They are rivals, and each requests your help to search around these locales for pages missing out of their respective books. They explain why they are trapped in books, who is responsible, and also give you some idea of what Myst is. You must solve some complex puzzles, get the missing pages and find your way back to the library where these books are located.

The good: The graphics and audio are great, especially for a game from 1993*. This game had live action video integrated into the gameplay which was doubly cool for the time.

The bad: Loading and crashing problems. The navigation threw me off… and keep a pen and paper handy.

The library (Photo: Wikimedia)

Myst is a point-and-click adventure game whereby you play the stranger in first person. The game allows you to explore locales freely, which was fun. Each place was intricately designed in the graphics of the time, which are pretty decent.

Found an animated gif! This is the level of animation in Myst. (Photo: lparchive)

While playing Myst, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that Myst as a game might very well be the canon from which all adventure games I played from the early 2000s (and frankly today) got their ideas from. Myst is well-crafted for its time. For a game from 1993, it makes me realize there was not a marked improvement in adventure games in terms of graphics, puzzles and story for many years. One need only look at Cameron Files and the earlier Sherlock Holmes games to name a couple of examples. I suppose a refresh of this genre of game can be best noted in Syberia which definitely pushed the adventure gaming limits of that era with a great tale, improved navigation and gorgeous graphics. As mentioned, there is live-action video in this game, but no animated characters which might be one reason why this game’s graphics hold up so well.

(Photo: cyan.com)

Evidence to the game’s age became apparent to us immediately, however. Before we could even start playing we had some serious trouble trying to get the CD version of Myst working on my Win 7 PC (meant for Win 95!). We decided to forgo the effort and instead buy a digital copy of Myst on GOG (dot) com for $7. Unfortunately, we still had trouble running this version. Since Myst originated on a Mac, the game installer repeatedly asked to install QuickTime version 1pointsomething, only to be confused by the fact that my PC had a much newer version. This, in itself, caused the program to crash. Along with that, the screen resolution also had to be fiddled with. The save file was our friend since we experienced some in-game crashes along the way. We obviously managed, but anyone not computer-savvy would have likely given up the Myst-ghost long before us diehards.

Once we got the game running, we experienced other problems of the gaming mechanics kind. I said Myst is well-crafted, but not without some faults. The menu system is next-to-near non-existant. Well, it has a “save as” feature and a “hint” system, but the hint system is not helpful: “Don’t know what to do next? Why not explore the library?” Yeah, thanks, we were just there!

20140602_184541

My Visual Arts degree going a long way here…My post-it scratchings used while playing Myst. (Yes, top left post-it does say ‘Zamfir’ referring to 1 of 5 noises we heard for a puzzle that sounded like a pan flute).

One tip about Myst from one gamer to another: make sure you have scrap paper and a pen handy. With every clue you come across, I would recommend you write it down, draw it, scribble it, scratch it, whatever – otherwise you WILL BE TOTALLY LOST. The navigation in Myst was tricky*, and with a lack of a map, it made this seem not like “Sarca’s kind of game”^. I actually found myself comment to the hubs that if I were playing alone, that I might have dropped Myst a long time ago because I was so lost. That said, I am happy the hubs was there to help me out and keep us in the game.

We finished Myst in two days, and, in retrospect, I am happy I got to experience where the point-and-click adventure gaming genre, that we are familiar with, began. I am not sure this is everyone’s cup, just by its rocky technical start. But overall, it’s something every gamer should experience once in their gaming life.

I am looking ahead to Riven: the Sequel to Myst. Also, I have Myst on the Nintendo DS – I might try that for sh!ts and giggles…

7.5/10

Myst (PC)
Developer: Cyan
Released: 1993

*Especially if Qix is the level of graphics you’re used to from this era…

**Insert 5 minute tutorial from the hubs on “What the hand signals mean in Myst” here. I was confused by the meaning of them… A hand pointing to the right spins you around; It doesn’t go right. (Just remember, all the hand signals you’ve learned from playing Big Fish Games do not apply here. <sheepish grin>)

^ Can’t find one’s way out of a fully-lit room –>THIS GAL (me).

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22 comments

    1. That’s actually a plastic food tray – thanks!

      The lighting’s so bad in my house and there’s always junk on table tops. It’s hard to get a decent shot in here.

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      1. We have the junk problem too. It comes from two people who collect stuff. There’s my stuff, and then there’s the collection of shoes and Maple Leafs stuff that is not mine!

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        1. Dining room table for us…I don’t know how it happens, but the newspaper, empty boxes, empty envelopes, cords and crap wind up there. And don’t even get me started on the paper – receipts, bills, just stuff. Our house is clean but hard to keep it tidy around here.

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          1. Rechargers, medications, usually some napkins…that’s our dining room table! Oh, and a shit-ton of magazines. I like to look at pictures in science magazines during dinner. It’s a thing I do.

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            1. And I gotta defend a sister here on the shoe thing. I love shoes! (ahem, but I am also cheap and haven’t bought a pair of shoes that cost more than $30 in three years). Jen into pumps? I like casual shoes – mules and sandals. Nothing with a heel. Comfort is king for me.

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            2. I chuckled when you asked if she’s into pumps. The reason is she has such BAD balance, and has fallen and twisted ankles and knees so many times, that she only wears flats. She still manages to fall and twist things, just not as often!

              She’s like you though — I doubt she ever pays more than $30 for a pair of shoes. Most of them are something like $10, from a crazy 80% off sale and stuff like that.

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            3. Ha! Same here. I am awkward. And also have terrible pressure points on my feet and plagued by blisters. I gotta tell you, pumps are weird on my feet. I had one pair that I could only wear for 5 minutes until my feet killed and were unfortunately named “Bare Traps”. Then, I was in a wedding party where everyone had to wear the same kind of shoes. Those shoes looked nice but were not practical for standing for three hours straight. Once the ceremony and pics were done, I had to put on my Teva sandals and claim disability reasons. I took a pic of my feet that day too – they looked TORTURED!

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            4. There’s a picture that I hope we don’t have to see 🙂

              I can’t believe me, LeBrain the metal guy, is talking about shoes…

              For my wedding I wore a tux. For the reception I changed from the tux shoes into something better for dancing, so I put on my ShaSha running shoes (with the flames). Jen switched from her shoes, to white sparkly flip flops. Nobody could see them under the dress anyway.

              Too bad my flame shoes clashed with our (Toronto Maple) blue theme.

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            5. LeBrain, Sarca has that way. It’s the trusting face lol

              My wedding, I wanted to do something like Father of the Bride with Steve Martin where Annie got to wear fancy runners – this was vetoed by my mother. Back then I really cared what she thought (and she helped us $ so…) Finding shoes was rough – 6 months it took me to find effing white shoes. PITA. And they weren’t bad comfort-wise, so that worked out. But, I still would have preferred runners or sandals.

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            6. I totally respect that — Jen’s folks paid for most of it too, so they definitely had a lot of say in the arrangements. Thankfully we were of like mind with 99% of it. There were a couple things where I put my foot down, and they put their foot down. For example, they would NOT let me enter the church with the Darth Vader theme, nor would they let me wield a lightsaber in the ceremony.

              On the flipside, I insisted on final say on all music, and also voteod Jen’s choice of chocolates for the guest tables. She wanted Lindor, I insisted we get the best, which was Rheo Thompson (Stratford Ontario) mint smoothies. They thanked me for that one after. I got a lot of people hooked on those.

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            7. Laura Secord for us.
              We paid a portion, the hubs parents paid a portion and then my parents. Overall the planning went fine – a couple of hiccups that I’d share over a Keiths, but overall, I look back fondly on the day. If I were to do it again? Tropical beach or at a cottage setting. Oh yeah! My sis got married by the lake and that was rad. Casual dress, a little sun, bbq, fish fry, a fire pit, smores, snacks and booze. It sound more hillbilly than it was really. Relaxed and light.

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  1. Reblogged this on Jud's PC Game Reviews & Problem Solving and commented:
    This is a great blog about MYST. As I am yet to get to the promised Post of the game myself, this is worth a read. TIP: Do go to Troubleshooting in Windows 7 then Reset to /earlier Version – this will help somewhat.
    Quicktime is a huge problem for older games as when it Updates, Quicktime overwrites itself so you don’t still have the earlier version to drive earlier games.
    Go to UHS HInts site as they have walkthroughs for all the MYST games.
    Also keep a NOTEBOOK for all the drawings, map details, item dfetails, clues, codes, runes etc.You will need more than a few sticky notes. 😀
    I will get on to my Post for this game asap. Jud

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  2. How did this Post lead to so many comments about shoes!!! lol MYST series is indeed the starting point of the Adventure/Hidden Object/Point & Click/Puzzle/SciFi/Fantasy games of today. Such a great series – I loved it, though I also spent much time wandering around trying to work out how to get to my next location. Use a NOTEBOOK rather than a few notes, coz you’ll need to make little drawings as well for codes and maps and mazes and runes and…and… Plus go to UHS Hints page – they do cool walkthroughs that allow you to open little hints at a time so you can work it out yourself if you want to – or just open them all and go from there. I bought my copies in the 90’s. You will need to visit Troubleshooting in Windows 7 then go to Reset Game to Earlier Version – this helps iron out some of the difficulties of the revamped digital issue.
    Also ignore Quicktime’s nagging to update it – whenever you update Quicktime it overwrites its previous version making it unusable for earlier games. It is a huge problem for the earlier CSI games. Check my blog about this if you need more info – under Troubleshooting, Problems and Solutions, and CSI games.
    I warn you – once you start playing MYST, despite the fact that you will feel directionless, frustrated, on edge, annoyed (especially at the Navigation controls), you will be hooked. It’s a truly monumental series, and you will be glad you tried it.

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      1. Your welcome 😀 It was a really good Post so I reblogged it into my site and added the same comments before it. Hope you don’t mind but it needs to be seen by as many MYST fans as poss.
        Do you know any way we can contact UBIsoft or TellTake Games to get them to speed up the next CSI game? I mean other than the futile sending an email to their support teams. Just thought I’d ask on the offchance you may know someon who knows someone lol

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