Release Date: March 28, 2005
Buy 'MYST IV: Revelation': Xbox
I have played every Myst game since the beginning of the series on the Macintosh, which was an interesting little HyperCard application with some interesting features. The Myst series tends to be a love-it-or-leave-it attitude, having its detractors and fans, both tending to be fanatic beyond belief. No matter what, Myst has been the standard to which all adventure games have been compared.
The crossover to the Xbox from the Mac and PC platforms tends to carry over this attitude, along with the additional stigma of a conversion to a console. PC purists tend to say that the combination of the keyboard and mouse is much more superior to a controller. In some ways, I would agree, but it is not that bad.
The story for the Myst series is intense and complex, but let me go through the short version. Atrus, the main character of the series, is the current patriarch of his family, a family with some "baggage." His two sons, Sirrus and Achenar, have some behaviorial issues of the Genghis Khan variety; his father is a jealous psychotic; and his daughter is, well, nuts. Everything comes down to the fact that this clan is as dysfunctional as all get out.
The worlds that these people live in are these wonderfully beautifully lands that escape description. These worlds, called "Ages," are created by things called "linking books." It is never clear if these books create the worlds, or are themselves just a passage to the world they describe, but considering the issues that are caused by incorrectly written books, I lean towards the theory that these books create the worlds that they link to.
The gameplay is composed of pointing and confirming through these various "Ages," solving the puzzles to progress through the game. The cursor, for lack of a better term, is the core part of the title, which lets the player know of anything important in the environment by the way the icon changes. It is also the only control for the many puzzles encountered. Some of the puzzles are ingenious in their design and difficulty, a trademark for a Myst title. Thankfully, there is a wonderful help system, which allows everything from a gentle hint to a full blown solution to the issue.
Myst IV is similar to the Myst III to the way the controls were converted from keyboard and mouse to the Xbox controller. The left thumbstick has replaced the mouse in functionality and the face buttons replace a good portion of the keyboard commands. The directional pad is used as a quick access to three key commands: camera, picture viewer, and the help system. The camera is used to take pictures, which is simple enough, but can be useful for figuring out solutions to the game's puzzles. Trying to remember which symbol was on which item isn't nearly as difficult when you can utilize the picture viewier, which lets you see pictures taken with the camera.
Another useful control is the zip feature, which allows for quick transition from previously visited areas, which is nice, considering the time it takes to get anywhere in this title. All Myst titles have had this feature due to the "time-sink" factor of this type of game.
As mentioned before, the cursor is used to control the game play 99% of the time. The icon itself can change depending on what it is held over; most of the time, the hand is open, but when pointed in a direction the player can go, the hand points the index finger in the direction of movement. A spread hand indicates that some type of action can be performed, from opening a drawer to tapping on a wall. Quickly tapping the B button allows for the hand to be moved independent of the view of the scenery. This can help explore a scene, since some context points could be missed.
Myst IV: Revelation has an amazing story, even for people who have not experienced the other three games or the three books because in the beginning, Atrus gives a short monologue that gets the players up to speed very quickly. The writers of the storyline have a sense of the dramatic and the ability to create a well thought-out progression through story arcs. This leads to an immersive experience that can cause the player to "try one more puzzle" until he realizes it is 4 in the morning and they have to get to work in three hours.
Myst IV does not fully meet up to the expectations delivered by the PC version of the title. Even with high definition (480p), the graphics just do not deliver the same quality as a high-end PC. Beyond that, Myst IV is still an amazing treat compared to most Xbox titles (higher-end titles like Halo 2 and Fable have been excluded from this generalization).
Cut scenes come in two flavors: the standard drive-the-storyline and the flashback storyline. Both are well done and relate some sort of information to further the plot or provide a hint to a solution to a problem.
The audio to Myst IV follows along with the high quality expected from Myst titles in the past, sporting a well designed soundscape in full Dolby Digital features and quality. Voice acting is beyond the expected quality of games, whether on a console or not, and added to the fact that cut scenes are mostly shot live on a blue screen, it adds another layer of immersive quality to the title. In addition, the musical score is once more done by Jack Wall, who has worked on previous Myst titles, and in Revelations has created a massive theatrical score that fits the minute needs of a particular moment in the game.
The "Ages" of Myst are the playground of the adventure game fanatic. The game play requires problem-solving skills and patience beyond some players' capacity. There is no "immediate" reward in the series, but solving puzzles create a wonderful feeling of accomplishment in a player who desires more from the gaming experience than blowing away Ewoks. Myst IV is a wonderful continuation of the series -- or a great gateway game for those who want to get into the series -- and I highly recommend it for fans of the adventure genre or people looking for a new experience in gaming.