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Neville Nicholson
12 Feb, 2007

Myst Review

PSP Review | Did you Myst me?
Cast your minds back, if you will, to the year 1993.

The world was a very different place back then. The World Trade Centre was the stage for a vicious terrorist attack, Iraq was a nation in strife, and Microsoft released a piece of software for personal computers with the name "Windows" on the box.

It was also the year the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted on TV, but that's probably more than enough horror and bloodshed for one introduction.

On a brighter note, 1993 was the year brothers Robyn and Rand Miller released their unique and engaging first-person adventure game, Myst for Macintosh computers. The gaming populace dropped its collective jaw and wept for joy at the stunning rendered images, haunting soundtrack and subtle plot of deception that was brought together by some of the most fiendish puzzles ever thrust upon the human psyche. Thousands upon thousands purchased the title, many of whom also gladly burdened the added cost of a CD-ROM drive - the computer peripheral equivalent of a plane ticket to the legendary island.

And then about four of us finished it.

A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they
don't change something.

A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they
don't change something.
Close
For those of you unfamiliar with the classic game, Myst is an adventure/puzzle game - one of the first of its kind. With little to no backstory, the player finds him/herself on a mysterious island filled with all manner of Jules Verne-esque contraptions and architecture. Without so much as a "Press X to move forward," the player is left to their own devices. It's likely you could spend hours navigating the island before discovering even a portion of its secrets. Numerous puzzles must be solved in order to access the various levels in the game, and each of those levels could easily take hours more to complete.

The game functions by presenting the player with a still image and a hand cursor, and clicking on various parts of the screen enable you to move (advancing you to the next screen) and interact with various objects. The system works as well on the PSP as it did back in the day, though obviously navigating with a D-pad instead of a mouse is clunky at best. A "zip mode" from later Myst titles has been added, enabling you to skip various screens to jump to areas you've visited before, which is useful, though doesn't seem to reduce loading times by a significant amount.

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is... well... blue...

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is... well... blue...
Close
Progressing through the various levels will reveal a subtle web of intrigue and deception. Players will be constantly second-guessing themselves all the way through to the conclusion, when all the information players have gleaned from exploring the various environments will begin to fall into place. It's the experience.. the eerie, solitary atmosphere of the game that will suck you in... or spit you out, if your tastes are more action-oriented.

Myst for the PSP is a difficult game to critique for a number of reasons. Firstly, let's face facts - the game is over a decade old. For all its charm, the title isn't exactly stretching the PSP to its limits. Debate rages over whether or not the PSP could handle the full 3D version later released for PC - realMyst - which enabled players to navigate the island in realtime with day/night cycles and weather effects as opposed to the postcard style Hypercard system the classic game employs. But on the other hand, Myst on the PSP is priced as a budget game (AU$50, rather than the more standard $70 or $80). Purists may well prefer the original version, but at least the realMyst version would give those of us who shamefully blundered our way through the Playstation/Saturn version something new to see.

Could that be a vital clue on the ground? No, it's just someone's
dirty old tissue... or is it? Yes, it is. Or maybe...

Could that be a vital clue on the ground? No, it's just someone's
dirty old tissue... or is it? Yes, it is. Or maybe...
Close
The other difficulty is due to the fact that many of the puzzles require you to jot down clues, and even sketch rudimentary images and maps on occasion. I like to imagine the players of the original game surrounded by stacks of notes that teeter on both sides of their computer monitor as they fiendishly hurl scraps of paper to the four winds, searching for that one message they'd scrawled on a napkin the previous night at 3am, trying to decipher their own hastily scratched gibberish... its import symbolically punctuated by the golden halo of a coffee mug ring. "Beetle, consternation.. shillwater..? What does that even MEAN?!"

This isn't so bad when you're in the comfort of your own living room (or your parents' basement.. you sad pathetic loser), but on the bus or waiting in line at the bank makes the practice less convenient. If the oft-suggested DS version were ever to see the light of day, the developers would be well advised to add some rudimentary note-taking functionality, thus making the more difficult puzzles more palatable.

It'd normally fetch £4,000 at auction, but unfortunately, there's
a tiny chip on the ninth vertebrae.

It'd normally fetch £4,000 at auction, but unfortunately, there's
a tiny chip on the ninth vertebrae.
Close
One advantage the PSP version has over the classic version is that it contains an added level, courtesy of realMyst - Rime. Rime is a relatively short/redundant level, which is hampered by the fact that the images seem to be screenshots of the realMyst level, as opposed to the exquisitely rendered images that make up the original portions of the game. The result, by comparison, is a jagged, pixelated mess. What's more, the player is unceremeniously dumped into the level with no particular explanation at the end of the game proper, whereas in realMyst, the player had to solve a number of puzzles to access the area. The level also ends somewhat abruptly (missing the real-time elements from realMyst), and those unfamiliar with the series will likely be scratching their heads as they find themselves back at the "Load Save File" screen without so much as a "Thank you for playing - A winner is you!"

Myst for the PSP is a difficult game to recommend. For veteran Myst players, this is a nice collection piece, but one that you've likely already stripped bare (if you own a copy of the spoof title, Pyst, you'll know what I'm talking about). For those of you who never played the original, who enjoy unforgiving puzzles and have more patience than your average gamer/saint, you'll find an incredible experience here, though one that remains undeniably dated.

There's a lot to like about Myst, but it's not particularly suited to a portable system, and the difficulty may have some gamers meandering around the island without making much progress. Much like another legendary tourist destination, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."
The Score
If you're at all interested in puzzle games, you owe it to yourself to check out Myst. For those who've already played it, it's like taking a trip down memory lane... and stumbling over every stone in the path. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Myst Content

Myst coming to the PSP
27 May, 2006 Better turn your lights on.
Myst coming to the Nintendo DS
08 Jun, 2007 Followed by fog and rain.
Mercury Meltdown Remix Review
16 Jan, 2007 Equal rights for games based on poisonous metals!
6 Comments
7 years ago
That quote- i thought it was off the transformers movie when the autobots crash land on the planet of junk.Then i realised it's

"You check in, but you don't check out."

So, it's not the planet of the junk.The tourist destination that is.

..

Oh the door-right, i'll just grab some sandwiches for the road then.
7 years ago
I had Pyst (along with its Star Wars parody brother Star Warped), and remember it had John Goodman playing Atrus.

In fact, if you put the CD into a audio cd player, you'd get to hear a song he recorded for it - "I'm Truly Pyst", hilarious in that it had absolutely nothing to do with Myst at all.
7 years ago
I have no interest in the game, but interesting review Nev. Loved the opening couple of paragraphs, good job. icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
I got this game on PC when i was like 7..I got stuck..so i barely got into it lol. Gotta give it another go..I thought the gfx were great when i was 7.
7 years ago
Great read Nev.

I borrowed a copy of this from a mate and was throughly unimpressed. I was one of those 4 who completed the original game. Like all these classics, I think they're better left in the past. As much as I might have enjoyed it in the day, it hasn't aged particularly well. The genre has moved on significantly.
7 years ago
James wrote
As much as I might have enjoyed it in the day, it hasn't aged particularly well. The genre has moved on significantly.
Exactly. A PSP version of realMyst would've been a lot more worthwhile... I saw my brother playing it once, and it looked like it could've been quite cool - if my PC were better equipped.

Since the save file on the PSP is listed as "Classic Myst Game," there's certainly the possibility... Either that or we'll just be getting Riven somewhere down the line. icon_confused.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Publisher:
  Midway
Developer:
  Cyan

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