Myst IV: Revelation Review

If youíre purely a console gamer, then odds are that you probably have not played an adventure game before. They rarely make appearances on consoles because their slower pace and cerebral bent donít translate well to the world of TV sets and gamepads. If you are a PC adventure gamer, then Iím a little surprised that youíre reading this review. After all, console gaming is not really your cup of tea and I canít imagine that youíd ever play a console version of an adventure game over the PC version. Anyway, if you were an adventurer gamer then youíd be intimately familiar with the Myst series of games. Their imaginative worlds, compelling and original storylines, and famously fiendish puzzles rightfully earned the Myst games legendary status in the world of adventure gaming. So now you know that the Myst games are sure to provide some entertaining, brain challenging gameplay, but what about on consoles? And specifically, is Myst IV for the Xbox a good game?

Myst IV features some beautiful scenery.

Letís start by looking at the gameís story and background. Myst IV carries on the storyline that began way back in the original Myst. Donít worry, this does not mean that you will be hopelessly lost, although catching up with the storyline will involve some extensive reading of journals and youíll just have to accept some of the situations at face value. Plus, youíll just have to accept the fact that you wonít get all of the references to events in the prior three games in the series. Anyway, itís not that it matters that much after all, since youíll spend most of your time trying to solve the gameís puzzles and a puzzle is a puzzle whether or not it has a story behind it. OK, back to the story at hand. A scientist by the name of Atrus has developed a way to travel between worlds that exist in other dimensions. While his motives were purely scientific and exploratory, his sons Sirrus and Achenar saw the new worlds as places to exploit for riches and power. Atrus has been forced throughout the series to thwart his sonsí efforts and to imprison them in special protected ages. Invariably they have a tendency to escape or otherwise cause trouble, and it is you who Atrus turns to time and again to stop them by Ö you guessed it, solving a series of puzzles.

Myst IV on the Xbox does a good job of maintaining the high standards of the series in terms of graphics and atmosphere. The worlds of Myst IV are at once beautiful and slightly surreal, familiar yet alien. When you interact with the characters in the game, they arenít 3D models, but rather video of the actors portraying the characters inserted into the computer generated worlds. The effect is expertly pulled off, at once making the characters appear very lifelike and very much a part of the world in which they are supposed to reside. This effect is further enhanced by the high quality of the acting by all of the actors throughout the game.

The worlds of Myst IV are navigated by moving a screen at a time from one scene or part of a scene to the next. This is old hat to PC gamers, but will take some getting used to if youíre only familiar with the free-roaming 3D worlds found in most video games. Myst IV makes up for this halted form of movement by giving you a lot of free reign as to where you roam. Some puzzles will need to be solved before you can get to others of course, but the game does give you some freedom in your approach. However, moving from one place to another that are separated by a number of screens can be a slow process as there is a slight pause between each screen and sometimes there is an even longer wait for the next screen to load. Movement can also be a bit awkward when designating the direction in which you want to move. You must manipulate an on-screen cursor so that it hovers over the direction that you want to move and then press a button to actually move. This is a pretty innocuous process on a PC when using a mouse, but is somewhat slow and awkward when using a thumbstick to move the cursor. Thankfully Myst IV allows you to use a map of where youíve been to jump between locations that youíve visited without having to retrace all of your steps, but it only works within the current age, and again, only with places that youíve already been. Myst IV is going to require a little patience on your part, and we havenít even gotten to the puzzles yet.

The interface also suffers from the translation to a console when it comes to interacting with the screens and puzzles. Some scenes will have interactive hotspots, such as dials that you can manipulate or objects that you can examine more closely. However, the only way to find these hotspots is to move the cursor over them and watch for it to change to a hand holding a magnifying glass or to a grabbing hand. This involves slowly sweeping each screen with the cursor looking for these spots Ö and it is still too easy to miss one. Once again, score one for the mouse over the controller.