This review is not meant for fans who’ve played the game back when it was groundbreaking. I remember being blown away by it, too. But I never got to play it, just watch my friend, and picking it up 17 years later, I can attest it’s like many Hitchcock movies: important, groundbreaking, and woefully not up to modern standards.
Movement is extremely disorienting. Neither slide “shifts” (Windows Movie Maker-style effects) or “zap"s allow the player to accurately gauge just how many degrees the character turned, making navigation needlessly annoying. This is greatly alleviated by realMYST, which allows free 3D roaming, and is highly recommended.
The rest of the game’s issues, however, can’t be solved by adapting it to modern technology. The game consists of four ages which can be played in any order. However, all four are unlocked practically simultaneously - while each requires a puzzle solution, the clues to the puzzles are all revealed in the same place in the same way, and the puzzles themselves are trivial given those keys. So, you can spend hours bumbling around not getting anywhere, and then you instantly unlock 95% of the game.
To add to this poor design, you have to complete each of the ages twice, since what stands for an inventory system in the game won’t allow you to carry the two objects you need to obtain in each age simultaneously. However, there is no difference in the process to complete the age a second time - the objects are right next to each other, except you have to carry them back one at a time.
The plot again unravels in leaps and bounds. At first you get a ton of information from an abandoned library, then you get absolutely nothing for most of the game, which instead focuses on giving useless tidbits around the ages and after the completion of each age, and then suddenly you everything that was missing once you complete the fourth age.
The puzzles themselves are decent, but not nearly as challenging as misty-eyed fans would have you believe. One of the ages has no puzzles at all, for instance, and the rest mostly require careful observation of how your actions affect the age. The good ones require an extra step beyond that, but most of them don’t. A Myst-style puzzle would be something like giving you a watch with two buttons. Then you’d have to wander around until you find somewhere a random page showing that watch showing a specific time. Then you have to figure out that one button adds exactly 118 minutes and the other adds 57 seconds and then figure out how to click the buttons to set the watch to that time. It’s not unfun, but it’s a far cry from being ingenious or extraordinarily challenging.
The bottom line is, don’t expect too much. It was revolutionary in its day, but today it’s a poorly-paced game with some okay puzzles. Worth the time if you’re into history or are a completionist wanting to tackle the later games.
Time Played: 2-5 hours