Myst

[Review] Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale (PC)

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is another offering from New Brunswick-based Gogii Games. I played its predecessor, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret, in 2014! Back then, I recall it being a damn fine HOG with an adventure element. Gogii does produce a half-decent sequel in Part 2, in graphics and gameplay, even while the storyline itself is a little strange.

In the Darkest Secret, Anna discovered that she is the Empress of the Deep – her sister Pandora was jealous of her and had her locked under sea in a tomb, asleep. Pandora destroyed the tomb, and Anna narrowly escaped with her life. Now in Song of the Blue Whale, she is being summoned to the Temple in the Sky to find the four Children of Light and save them from Pandora’s evil clutches. In this temple she must also seek the animal guardians who will free the children and restore harmony. Yes, a lot of responsibility on Anna’s shoulders!

The sequel holds the Empress of the Deep canon well. My memory might be fuzzy on the past, but I think Part 2 might be stronger than its predecessor. It certainly has a lot to offer… The puzzles are engaging and varied; I found the hidden object scenes clear and interesting, but easy. The game is short (it took me under 3 hours to complete), but there are plenty of scenes to navigate. If I am to offer any critique, it would have to do with being given a map that I had difficulty deciphering, and that there seemed to be quite a bit of backtracking which made me lose my place a lot.

Mostly though, I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this game – the beautiful soundtrack, the odd soundbites of children talking and the serenity of water falling. Like its predecessor, there are aspects of the game that give a feeling of peace, similar to the Fall, or even Myst. And one takes pause at the calming pace at which the voiceover of Anna is delivered, acted by none other than Lucy DeCoutère (Trailer Park Boys). Gogii chose rightly here; just perfect!

Overall, Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is a fine compliment to the first set, and often goes on sale on Steam – I highly recommend that you pick it up when it does!

4.75/5

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale
Gogii
2011

[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).