Graphical adventure games don't have much of a history or an audience on consoles. But on the PC, they've long been a standard. Even if you don't play these types of games often, though, chances are you've heard of Myst, the 1993 adventure game that revolutionized the genre with its artistic visuals, compelling story, and clean, simple design. The latest in the series continues the traditions that started more than 10 years ago. Like its predecessors, Myst IV Revelation is a deliberately paced first-person-perspective adventure game whose controls are almost instantly intuitive. And yet its incredibly complex and challenging puzzles are about as far from instantly intuitive as possible. When it was originally released last year for the PC, Myst IV lived up to its subtitle thanks to a mesmerizing presentation. But neither the beautiful sights nor the simple controls withstood the translation to the Xbox without incident. Myst IV still offers a one-of-a-kind experience for the Xbox, and it's available at a budget price, for good measure. But you'd be better off playing the PC original if you have the means.
Myst IV unfortunately loses some of its magic in translation to the Xbox, but the budget price softens the blow.
Before we get into more specifics about the game, for those who don't know, it's important to note that differences between the PC and Xbox versions are fairly subtle. However, they do have a significant impact nonetheless. The actual content of the two versions is the same. However, the game's stunning scenery is neither as sharp nor as colorful on the Xbox as on the PC, and the loading times between areas are just long enough to be aggravating. The occasional fits of slowdown you'll see as you look around in each environment are particularly unsightly, but the real problem with the downgrade in visual fidelity is that it makes it harder to spot essential elements onscreen. You need a keen eye to spot some of the details that are crucial to making progress in Myst IV, and though this task is already very difficult in the PC version, it's even harder on the Xbox. The game's 480p support clears things up a bit, but it doesn't make a dramatic difference.
What's more, the PC version's simple mouse-driven interface doesn't translate well to the Xbox, where you need to use the left thumbstick to move your perspective and your viewpoint around. By default, this motion is very sluggish, and while you can adjust the speed, you can't adjust the acceleration, which is slow. Consequently, it's kind of a pain to perform actions that are supposed to be trivial, like throwing a switch or pushing a couple of buttons. These distinctions between the PC and Xbox versions are enough to make the PC version much better overall, and they prevent the Xbox version from being a great game on its own merits. It's not hard to tell this was originally a PC game that was forced to accommodate a console-style control scheme.
Though your familiarity with previous Myst games is not necessarily assumed by Myst IV Revelation, its storyline is heavily intertwined with previous entries in the series. Longtime Myst fans will catch numerous references to earlier games, and they will most appreciate the ability to gain a lot of new insight into Myst's main characters, including the Da Vincian scientist Atrus and his scheming sons, Sirrus and Achenar.
Prepare for a lengthy, extremely challenging adventure in Myst IV Revelation.
Even if you aren't already familiar with these characters, there's a good chance they'll readily endear themselves to you, thanks to the game's use of live actors in its full-motion video plot sequences. The actors portraying these characters do a particularly fine job (some of the other performances aren't quite as strong, but they're OK), and they help give Myst IV a personal touch and a surprisingly distinctive personality, seeing as very few games feature live actors anymore. At any rate, though the story loosely ties together the events of Myst IV, it's mostly just there as a setup for you to explore a series of wondrous, otherworldly locales. If you've played a Myst game before, then you know not to expect a lot of dialogue or character interaction here. At the least, you can look forward to discovering and reading through the various main characters' journals during the course of the game, in addition to discovering their ambitions and secrets, along with some important clues. These journals are lengthy, but they're expressively narrated and packed with interesting detail.
As in previous Myst games, your character's persona is undefined, but it's evident that whoever it is you are, you're Atrus' friend, and you're willing to help him. After all, Atrus is a remarkable individual who has the power to write "ages," which take the form of completely different worlds that seem to spring forth from Atrus' books (he humbly explains that he merely links to these ages rather than creates them). Your journey through Myst IV will see you through several unique ages: Tomahna, a beautiful cove in which Atrus and his remaining family reside; Spire, a gloomy and equal parts bizarre and awe-inspiring world of floating cliffs and perpetual storms; Haven, a lush prehistoric-looking land filled with strange creatures; and Serenia, a utopian society that's reminiscent of the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. Each of the game's settings is well designed. The different ages are highly distinct from one another, not only in terms of the sights and sounds you'll experience while there, but also in the nature of the puzzles you'll be solving in the respective environments.
You'll explore the game's different ages on your own, but you'll encounter several key characters throughout.
Unlike many other adventure games, Myst IV lets you go about some of your objectives, as well as visit some of the different ages, in no particular order. This free-form structure is both liberating and bewildering. Myst IV doesn't ever lead you by the nose from one location to another. It instead invites you (and challenges you) to find your own path. Navigating is simple enough. A context-sensitive cursor in the shape of a hand (you can even choose a right- or left-handed one) changes to indicate when you can move toward a distant area, examine an object, or use an object.
It's important to note that Myst IV is not a fully 3D game, which means you'll be moving from node to node--from one picturesque scene to another. Transitions from node to node are occasionally animated, but mostly, Myst IV hearkens back to its predecessors just by crossfading from one scene to the next. As mentioned, this isn't always a fast process, and it feels more awkward on the Xbox than on the PC. Considering how many graphically impressive, fully 3D games are available on the Xbox, it might be difficult to rationalize why the game doesn't just let you move around freely. It's one of those experiences that just doesn't translate well to consoles.
Within each node, you're free to investigate all around you by moving the left stick in any direction to rotate your view. Some clues can and will be above or below eye level, and in general, there's a lot to take in at practically every location. Of course, not every single node packs in some sort of mission-critical clue or puzzle. In fact, Myst IV goes so far as to throw some red herrings at you, like presenting aspects of the environment that seem interesting or that seem as if you can interact with them. These things are just there for curiosity's sake, if not to draw your attention away from the real puzzles. In turn, since Myst IV's scenery can be so dense with detail, it can be difficult to tell exactly what you can and cannot interact with. You'll invariably end up searching for "hot spots" onscreen, which are places where your cursor changes to indicate that you can do something there. Even so, you're liable to miss some of these hot spots unless you're really on your toes. And sometimes this means overlooking a subtle but important clue. Of course, there's generally no sense of urgency while playing Myst IV, thanks partly to the serene landscapes and soothing ambient music. It's important to be patient and to take your time while playing.