An early warning now: if you’re a Myst fan thinking of buying the Nintendo DS port of the game and you still have a copy on disc, run back to your PC with open arms instead of jeopardizing your memories of what a great game Myst really is. If, instead, you’re someone simply looking for more adventure game titles on the DS and considering checking out Myst, read on, although by no one’s standards does this conversion do the game any justice.
I should make it clear up front that I’m a diehard Myst fan. I’ve played the whole series and loved them all (well, apart from Uru) and made it through most of the games without too much help. I’ve always admired the series for its depth of background storytelling, logical if at times difficult puzzles, and generally well-oiled mechanisms. However, this is the first time I’ve played the game on a different platform, and let’s just say it does not impress me on the DS. The game is riddled with bugs and glitches that didn’t exist in the original PC version, which tend to dampen what otherwise could have been an enjoyable port, although the limitations of the handheld itself work against the better qualities of the game to begin with. With a little luck and a lot of patience, you might just get a taste of the Myst experience as it should be, but never much more than that.
For those who have somehow managed never to play Myst in the 15-plus years since its debut, the premise is that you find a mysterious book which describes a strange island, and when you reach the end you touch one of the pages only to find yourself on that very same island. With no idea how to get back, your only option is to explore and unlock its secrets. As you walk around you will find new locations to investigate, like the library in which the story begins to unfold. By reading the various books, you’ll discover that there are several other ‘linking books’ on the island. These books can transport you to four different worlds created by a man named Atrus. Unfortunately, one of his two sons has been destroying these worlds and as a result, Atrus has trapped them both in separate books in the library. In these books you’ll hear each of the brothers’ pleas for freedom. Your job is to search the other worlds for clues and loose pages (returning them to the brothers’ books will reveal more of the story) in order to deduce which one is guilty. Along the way, you're confronted with a series of puzzles you will have to complete in order to link back to Myst Island.
Along with the four primary worlds, you will visit a bonus “Age” that becomes accessible after you finish the main game. All worlds were once inhabited by the two brothers, Sirrus and Achenar, and you will explore their various dwellings. Channelwood is a treetop village, the Selenitic Age a small island, the Mechanical Age a rotating fortress, and the Stoneship Age allows you to explore a small rocky atoll on which a ship has crashed. After you have completed these worlds and seen the game to its conclusion, you will be able to travel to Rime (there isn’t an option), which is a short level and feels a little tacked on. It’s not exactly “new”, either, as it was first introduced in realMyst, and it only serves to add a small amount to the story of Myst. Whilst it’s nice for longtime fans to be able to play a new Age, I would have preferred the original ending and the ability to explore Myst Island after the game is finished, although perhaps I’d have thought more highly of it without all the technical issues that plagued the experience.
To move around these worlds, you use the stylus and touch screen, as there are no buttons that have any effect in this DS port. This is a fine idea, easily reproducing the slideshow-style point-and-click mechanics of its predecessor, but like every other tool at your disposal, it’s poorly implemented. Navigating is done simply by tapping the area in front of you. In some places you are able to turn left and right but in others you will only be able to turn around and go back the way you came. This might seem limited but it ends up being a good thing, as moving around can be cumbersome and sometimes tapping too fast means you’ll end up in the opposite direction of where you wanted to go.
The other use of the stylus is to operate the buttons and switches in puzzles, which would be fine if the game’s hotspots weren’t so minute. This is largely connected to the visual display, which is already small considering the size of the DS screen, but then further reduced by a tool bar which covers a quarter of that screen. This is bad enough in a game which should pride itself on its immersive vistas, but some of the buttons are so small that it takes a horrible amount of time and dexterity to complete puzzles that should take minutes rather than hours. There’s an option to magnify most scenes, but this serves only to generate a pixelated, unrecognisable mess on the top screen.Continued on the next page...