Myst is very special. It's not often a game appears, on any format, that manages to completely engage the player, but Myst is just such a game. No wonder then that it's the biggest selling CD-ROM game of all time, having achieved a massive following when it was released for the PC and Mac a couple of years back.
Its crown may well have been stolen now by some PlayStation game or other but it's certainly still something to crow about.
And it's not as if it's the easiest game in the world to get to grips with. Anyone looking for linear structure, simple puzzles and clues aplenty are going to find themselves very frustrated. Myst gives you nothing to start with and expects you to get on with it. Even after several days of playing you're not going to be entirely sure what's going on or what you're supposed to be doing. But let's go right back to the beginning.
Myst is a strange island you find yourself on at the start of the adventure. Quite why it exists is not entirely clear...
This is a point and click adventure, of sorts. You view all of the game's locations from a first person perspective. Interaction with the landscape is achieved by means of a small cursor in the shape of a hand that you move around the landscape. If you want to move forward, place the hand on the screen so it's pointing up. If you want to turn right move it to the right of the screen until it points right. Simple as that. If there's something you can pick up or pull or whatever, then the hand changes so it looks like it's gripping. You don't get much easier than this.
But what's the game all about? That, dear reader, is still a mystery to me. Myst is a strange island you find yourself on at the start of the adventure. Quite why it exists is not entirely clear, but after a couple of hours adventuring you come to realise that there's this character called Atrus who spends his life jumping between different ages and different places, helping the inhabitants (if there are any) and generally enjoying the wonder and beauty of the places he helps to create.
Something's gone wrong in paradise though, and Atrus suspects one of his two sons, Sirrus or Achenar, of not only meddling with things they shouldn't but of actually destroying times and places that Atrus has lovingly built.
Confused yet? You will be, my friend. You have no clues to start with, either to what's going on or what you're supposed to be doing. After a bit of wandering around you'll suddenly start to get an idea of what's happening. A scrap of paper here leads to searching a room there which reveals a clue to somewhere else.
Before you know it, you're immersed in the whole bizarre world of Myst. But don't expect it to be easy. Not only is it generally vague, but a lot of the puzzles are really quite tricky. Miss some tiny detail and you could be wandering around for days going over the same old ground again and again. This is possibly the only real disappointment with Myst, but even that's forgivable once you're aware that it plays this kind of tricks on you.
Let's take the scrap of paper as an example. After a couple of minutes on the island you'll find the paper that explains that there's an important message to be read on the 'imager' that's to be found in an ante-chamber next to your starting location. Fair enough, let's head there then.
Right, we're in the ante-chamber and we've found what can only be the imager. Several speculative clicks on the thing have got it to do a couple of odd things, but there's no recognisable message coming forth.
Before you know it, you're immersed in the whole bizarre world of Myst. But don't expect it to be easy...
A more detailed look round the room reveals a not on the wall by the stairs. The paper tells us to input the number of marker switches on the island into the imager to reveal the message. First of all, what's a marker switch? Second, how do you input the number (which for argument's sake let's say is eight)?
Right next to the note on the wall, on the top left corner, is a small button. You'd miss this if I didn't tell you - trust me. Click on this and the note moves to reveal a panel where you can input numbers. Enter the number eight, go back to the imager and click on the right button (you really can't miss this) and suddenly the message comes through, and now you're off.
This kind of thing doesn't happen that often but it does teach you to be very observant when you're in a location and to click on everything. This can, however, be time consuming when you see how detailed some of the locations are.
Don't, whatever you do, let that put you off. I merely want to illustrate that you have to play Myst carefully and with some effort. As the instructions point out, you have to play as if you're really there and, though this may be stretching things a little, it's worth bearing in mind.
...You have to play as if you're really there... Myst is intriguing, addictive and thoroughly gorgeous...
Myst is intriguing, addictive and thoroughly gorgeous to look at, although I had a few problems getting the game to run on the A1200 in the office (solved with a patch downloaded from a website) and it needs a whopping 8Mb of fast RAM.
However, it's still one of the best adventure games to have been released on the Amiga. Even if you're not really interested in adventuring, you'll find Myst to be thoroughly engaging. The clever and subtle way the game reveals its secrets makes it hard to leave and the way the whole story is woven together makes you keen to learn more.
Just as one piece of jigsaw falls into place you find there are half a dozen more pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere. And don't for a minute expect to be stuck on the island of Myst. You'll be off all over the place, sometimes without really wanting to.
Myst is not really a game for the novice. Although the puzzles are largely logical, it does take a bit of common sense to make head and tail of them. You don't have to be Einstein to get through the game but it's unlikely you'll understand what you're supposed to be doing if you're thicker than two short planks (which you're not because you're reading AF) or a complete beginner when it comes to adventure games.
You're also going to need a notepad and pen to remind you of important clues, which may be aural as well as visual, and be prepared to sit and think situations through. If you are, and you certainly should be, and if you've got a machine with a high enough spec to run the game properly, then you should search for a copy of Myst as soon as you can.
As for me, I'm off to find what's so important about January 17, 1207, 5:46am. Suggestions on a postcard please