Adventure Gamers Awards
“I realized the moment I fell into the fissure—”
<sound of abruptly-stopped record scratching>
Myha: Return to the Lost Island may not actually be a Myst game, but you would be forgiven for thinking so. Alone on a beautifully rendered deserted island, you are left entirely to your own devices to piece together disparate clues, fathom the workings of abandoned mechanical devices, and make the occasional leap of logic in order to escape back home. The puzzles are difficult, the production values are high, and the journey is very rewarding... providing you like this sort of experience.
The resemblance to Myst is certainly not unintentional. The free original version was created by Simon Mesnard (ASA, Catyph) for a game jam in 2016 whose theme was to “make a game inspired by Myst.” At that time, Myha was a node-based point-and-click adventure with 360-degree camera rotation. Even then, the game had history to draw upon, as it was another installment in Mesnard’s Black Cube series, wherein the mysterious cubes are discovered across space, a la the monoliths of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since that time, Mesnard teamed up with Denis Martin (himself an accomplished freeware developer of RoonSehv: NeTerra) to take the basic game jam iteration and reimagine it as a full-fledged commercial release. Developed with Unreal Engine 4, this updated version moves away from the node-based navigation of the earlier title to a fluid, fully realized 3D space with significantly expanded and enhanced gameplay.
Although the production history of Myha: Return to the Lost Island – which I’ll refer to simply as Myha from here on – is somewhat convoluted, the story within the game is not. You play a nameless, faceless cosmonaut being sent on a mission to the moon to look for a lost member from a previous expedition, Philip Forté. While conducting a moon walk on the lunar surface, you will encounter a featureless black cube that transports you across the galaxy to another planet and strands both you and your rocket ship on the lush titular island. It will be up to you to solve the various puzzles presented here in order to find a way back home again and hopefully locate the missing Forté.
I must confess, I wasn’t familiar with the Black Cube series prior to playing this game. I imagine there are various details and references that will be more meaningful to those who know the mythology, but I did not find my ignorance to be an obstacle. Perhaps that’s because, despite the presence of a few minor narrative elements, conveyed through notes and corrupted audio recordings left behind, Myha is a straight-up puzzler. It seems like almost every mark, drawing, and steampunk-esque device is part of some conundrum that must be solved. In typical Myst fashion, these pieces are scattered about the island and the first challenge is just getting oriented and discovering where everything is.
These types of free-roaming 3D environments can become easily disorienting, but I never felt lost wandering about. The island is not overly large and paths are well lit by small lampposts that serve as an effective way of preventing this from happening. Left shift, or another key of your choosing, can be used to run, which helps cut down on the time trekking from one place to another. I would have appreciated a toggle run button instead of a constant hold one, but if you don’t feel like backtracking the game does provide three save slots so it’s easy to record your progress in different locations and then reload to quickly hop around the island.
Many of the puzzles involve numbers, colours, and patterns. Typically some combination of the three is used to determine a numeric code to enter into keypads around the island. For instance, one such door has an engraving of several symbols nearby. These same symbols appear elsewhere on tiles that are mostly square but with various unique cut-outs that allow them to interlock; one tile may have a cross sticking off an edge, another may have a triangle, that sort of thing. Discerning the order in which these tiles connect helps to determine the numerical values assigned to them. Match those to the symbols and the key code is revealed. It may sound complicated, but this is actually one of the simpler puzzles encountered, with most requiring information from more diverse and distant sources.
Although the majority of puzzles ultimately involve the same types of elements, the game does a good job of dressing them up with unique embellishments. I quite enjoyed a sequence where I had to use a telescope with a rangefinder to determine the distance to, and angular diameter of, different planets in the stellar system where the alien planet is located. These measurements are all number-based, of course, and the planets themselves are different hues, which naturally plays into a colour matching puzzle. Based on the various measurements, an in-game calculator must be employed to…ah, but that would be telling. Suffice to say, just getting that far in this particular puzzle chain is an achievement in itself.
Myha is very old school in its gameplay, in that there is no hand-holding here. Given the tendency of most games nowadays to reduce puzzle difficulty, I found this quite refreshing and really enjoyed the challenge. All the elements needed to overcome the obstacles in your way are present, but you will have to keep careful and detailed notes and be very thorough investigating the environment to find everything. If you overlook something, there are no prompts or hint systems here. You will have to retrace your steps around the island and look all the harder for anything you may have missed the first time. In this way I found Myha to be on par in terms of difficulty with Riven, although the latter has a much larger game world than what’s on offer here. The island of Myha is comparable in size – perhaps a little larger – to Myst island itself from the first game in Cyan’s series.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Myha: Return to the Lost Island
Posted by My Dune on Apr 26, 2019
Another nice sequal
Another nice sequel to ASA: A Space Adventure and Catyph: The Kunci Experiment. My last words from my little review for 'Catyph: The Kunci Experiment' were: "Can't wait for another one guys!!!! The universe is unlimited and the Ark still has lot's of stories...