Myst

Adventure game creators have always sought to immerse gamers into their imaginary worlds but have sometimes been limited by technology. For example, I remember some early Spectrum games that were simply text based. Although they were fun, I never felt immersed in the game. Myst was the first game I’d played where I felt that the immersion experience was successful on me. Others may differ but I can only tell you how I felt about it. I should also warn you that there is a spoiler near the end of the review.

A plain and mysterious title screen, giving little away. Much like the game itself. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Developed by Cyan Inc. and published by Brøderbund Software, Myst was released for the Macintosh in 1993, Windows in 1994, 3DO in 1995, and PlayStation in 1996. A remake was released for Windows in 2000 and Macintosh in 2002, and the realMyst: Masterpiece Edition was released on Steam in 2014. The game was ported to many other platforms including Sega Saturn, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Android, iPhone, Nintendo 3DS, Jaguar CD, Amiga OS, CD-I, For this review I replayed the original Windows version.

Your view as you explore this mysterious world

Viewed in first person mode, Myst is a graphics adventure puzzle game which sees an unnamed protagonist (that’s you) falling into a fissure and appearing on a mysterious island. You are able to move and turn by using a cursor to click the route you wish to take or the direction you wish to turn. You can also interact with objects by clicking and dragging them.

One of several notes found on the island to assist you in working out what you are supposed to do. (Screenshot taken by the author)

As you explore the island you learn more about its history and the worlds you will soon visit. Some notes also offer hints to help you progress through the game. You soon learn that you need to gather blue and red pages and restore them to two books found in the observatory.  Two brothers, Sirrus and Achenar, have been trapped inside these books. As each one speaks to you through garbled transmissions, they explain that the other brother is mad and has imprisoned them in the books. They both try to convince you to free them instead of the other brother, both claiming that the other brother murdered their father. To find the pages you must explore several other worlds and solve various puzzles.

Both brothers are trapped in separate books…but which on whould you free? (Screenshot taken by the author)

One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that you are simply thrust into this game with virtually no back story and no idea what you have to do, and oddly, you cannot die! At first you are simply wandering around, searching for buildings to enter and objects to interact with. This can be quite off putting to some as it can take a while to understand what the hell is going on. Some of the puzzles are fun and challenging. Others are less obvious to solve. One annoying aspect of the game is having to return to the same worlds to collect the other page you didn’t collect on your first visit, as you can only pick up one at a time.

One of the other worlds you visit to find the blue and red pages is Channelwood. (Screenshot taken by the author)

I remember when this game was released, and I played it with a school friend. However, we never got that far as it was a bit too difficult for our teenage brains. When I came to it years later, I fared better having gained much experience with these sorts of games. I thought the graphics were out of this world. The background music and minimalistic SFX bring an eerie air to the game adding to the feeling of being truly alone. Having revisited the game over 25 years since its release, I think the game has held up pretty well. Sure the animations are basic and not as smooth as modern games, and the 3D design of the worlds look dated, but the gameplay is straightforward, once you realise what you need to do, and I found myself being immersed in the game once more.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There are four possible endings, with one of them being the true ending. However, the true ending is frustratingly and unsatisfyingly none existent and I found myself wandering Myst for some time before searching online to see if I had missed something. Nope, sure enough there is no ending. I guess I will have to play the sequel Myst: Riven, to see what happens next.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but definitely needed help from the walkthrough on this on!

What the critics Said:

Gamespot.com: “Myst is an immersive experience that draws you in and won’t let you go. Overall 8.9/10[1]

My verdict: “This is a tough game and seems to be aimed towards more experience adventure gamers. However, I loved the concept of the game, and the ambient music and SFX immerses you into the game. I just feel it could have been so much better if more story was included. I also felt the way you can only carry one coloured page at a time, meaning you have to go through each world twice, was a cheap way to prolong the game. I mean, who can’t carry two pages!”

Rating:

What are your memories of Myst? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] Sengstack, J., (May 1, 1996). ‘Myst Review’. www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/myst-review/1900-2542724/ Accessed on 17th February 2020).

Columns

Reviewed by Nick Lawrence

In 1989, Nintendo released Tetris on the Game Boy, and it proved to be an instant hit. By its 25-year anniversary Tetris had sold over 70 million copies worldwide.[1] Sega, eager to compete, needed a puzzle game of their own. They settled-on Columns, similar enough not to deter Tetris fans, but different enough to try and attract a new audience. Sadly, Columns couldn’t imitate Tetris’ success.

Screenshot taken by the author

Columns is a puzzle game created by Jay Geertsen for the arcade in 1989. Its success led to it being ported to many other platforms. The version I played was from the Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Collection on the Playstation 3. It was originally developed and published by Sega in 1990.

The game consists of three coloured jewels being dropped to the bottom of a rectangular screen, similar to Tetris. However, instead of aiming to complete horizontal lines, you must match three or more of the same coloured jewels in either a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. Once lined up the jewels will disappear allowing any jewels above to fall down to the lowest point possible. You will also be awarded points. You are able to cycle the order of the jewels to aid in your organisation of landed jewels. If a multi-coloured, flashing set of jewels appears, you can land any colour of jewel that you wish and all of that type of jewel will disappear. The higher your score, the faster the jewels will fall. Columns can be played in one-player and multiplayer modes, flash-modes and a time trial mode which add to the replay value of such a seemingly simple but highly addictive game.

Screenshot taken by the author

I have a real soft spot for this game and prefer it to Tetris, possibly because of the beautifully coloured jewels. The graphics in general have a classical Greek/Roman feel to them and each jewel is brightly coloured and easily distinguishable from the others. The music is rather basic but does have a tendency to get stuck in your head, but mostly you will find that you’ll turn the sound down and listen to your own music, podcast or an audiobook.

I used to play this game a lot and got pretty damn good at it. As you can see from the photograph below, the highest score I achieved was 5408848 at level 121. I would have continued but I had been playing for a while and was due to go out for the evening. I could have paused and come back to it but I feel that I had proved my aptitude for the game.

A photgraph of my highest ever score

Did I complete the game?

No one seems to know how high the score or levels go, and I don’t know of anyone who has “completed” this game, so I’m going to assume this is a game that cannot be completed.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Index: “Sega’s answer to Tetris, this puzzle game is excellent. There’s a huge variety of options, including arcade-style time trials, three different difficulty settings, nine different starting levels, and a two-plater head-to-head made which adds to the game’s lasting appeal. Overall 88%[2]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with a superb challenge mode. Simple and addictive. Overall 4/5.[3]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with superb one-on-one challenge mode. More of an end-of-blast relaxer than a main game. Simple, addictive , but expensive for what it is. Overall 4/5.[4]

My Verdict:

“It’s like Tetris, but better in my opinion. Colourful, challenging and surprisingly addictive.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Columns? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also follow me on Facebook.


[1] Johnson, Bobbie, (June 2009) ‘How Tetris Conquered the World, Block by Block’. The Guardian. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/jun/02/tetris-25anniversary-alexey-pajitnov Accessed on 10th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Columns’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n137/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Columns’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Columns’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:53. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.