previews\ Mar 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Myst - NDS - Preview

It’s been called brilliant, innovative, and the king of puzzles. It’s been played and loved by millions. Its span is so wide that, if the reports are true, it helped inspire some of the mysteries of the island on the TV series Lost. And it is none other than MYST.

Originally developed for the PC format, MYST will make its major handheld debut on Nintendo DS. There is a PSP edition out there in Europe, but given that the DS game is the one coming Stateside, you can bet it’s the definitive version.

Fully Rendered

Long before pre-rendered (CG) backgrounds populated survival/horror games and high-end RPGs, they were used to convey a higher level of realism in MYST. This world – a giant, persistent land that’s overflowing with mind-boggling puzzles – is technically made up of hundreds (or could it be thousands!?) of individual images. These images don’t move except when they absolutely must (to flip a switch, press a button, turn a crank, etc.), and even then the animations are minimal. But players didn’t care. The world was so beautifully designed, and so different from everything else at the time that the animations were inconsequential.

Games couldn’t get away with that today, but as a port to a system whose processor is far weaker than the average graphics card, MYST’s visuals hold up well. The graphic depth is still present, though less vibrant on the DS screens. In this preview build, the majority of the gameplay took place on the bottom screen. You could use the top screen for map and picture viewing (from a camera feature that allows you to archive one photo of whatever you’re looking at), or keep it on the default view, which is currently a large shot of the logo. Will the final build use both screens for some of the more complex puzzles? We can only hope.

If it doesn’t, MYST fans will still be enthralled. There are no explanations, no revelations, and only the vaguest of hints to get you through the puzzles. It is a game where your only hope is you, which goes completely against today’s trend of uber-simplicity. That in no way means the mainstream crowd can’t get into it. But they won’t be able to pick it up and finish it in a day.

The Touch Generation

You can’t make a MYST game for Nintendo DS without including touch control features. These developers did one better and said forget about the shoulder buttons. Forget the face buttons. And let’s pretend the D-pad doesn’t exist – you don’t need it. This could change in the final version, but right now you control everything from the touch screen. It might seem difficult at first, especially if you’ve never played MYST before. But it’s necessary and superior in the long run. Navigation works by touching the environment that you see on the screen. Character movement is not like an FPS; you can’t strafe but may turn left or right by tapping either side of the screen. To go forward, tap the middle of the screen.

When you come to a puzzle (or any object that could be worth examining), most of the navigational controls come to a halt. Using the touch screen, you may be able to click on buttons, switches, or anything else in the area, but may move around. Upon tapping the sides of the screen from these locations, the game jumps away from the object and/or turns toward the exit.

MYST fans already know how much exploring it takes just to begin the game. To get ahead, you’ll be tied up so long that you may start to wish the Nintendo DS had interchangeable battery backs. The controls aren’t perfect (yet) but are still fairly easy to grasp. Navigation is generally quick and responsive, as are the light touches needed to solve puzzles. However, some of the puzzles have small pieces and can take multiple stylus taps to activate. Hopefully this will be alleviated by the time the game ships.

Shipping to stores later this spring, MYST is a game unlike any other you’ve had on Nintendo DS. The game is in a good place now, and if the final version can live up to the original, stay close to a power outlet – your DS is gonna need all the energy it can get.

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