I Think I Myst Again

What have I been doing with all this free time I accumulate by not writing weblog entries for weeks and weeks?

Playing Myst IV, of course!

I won’t be the first person to talk about its interface flaws, but talk I will:

1. No access to regular application menu. This means going through their clunky custom interface to open and save games and bring up preferences. This has gotten worse since previous Mysts.

2. Purty, but clunky “camera” interface. No Undo/Redo for deleting pictures. Ouch! And who needs full-motion transitions just to look at a damn picture! Why do I have to move the mouse, with difficulty, in a circle to switch pictures? Forward and back arrows, hello?!? I love being able to take pictures, but the interface is horrible.

3. Degraded zip mode. Before, you could hover your arrow on a distant location, and if you could “zip” there, it became a lightning bolt. Now, instead, you have to pick a new location from a tiny tiny strip of limited, obscure location pictures. You have to memorize what miniscule image goes with what location, and click the tiny tiny scroll arrows if the list of such images is over 4 or so. In theory, this could be better than the lightning bolt, because it lets you go anywhere. In practice….

4. No automapping. Why doesn’t any game map for me as I go? I spend hours tracing everything out to make a coherent map, guessing whether a gentle turn means 90 degrees or maybe just 45 degrees, hoping the damn paths all link up in the right places when I’m done. I can’t use my own graphics program to help, because Myst takes up the whole damn screen! Is the exact layout of all the locations a state secret? No? Then why act like it! And annotate the map, too. I don’t want obscure florid icons where I have to make a second map just to describe what the in-game map really means.

Those rants may lead you to believe I hate Myst IV, but in fact I’m enjoying playing it. The continued greater and greater use of motion in each successive Myst is a lot of fun. Not particularly realistic, but fun. And the art and music are always great. The acting somehow never seems to improve, but it’s no worse than your average Sci Fi Channel show.

I’m not done, so no spoilers in the comments!

One comment

  1. Michael Rawdon

    Basically the same complaints that I had about Myst IV, with two exceptions:

    1) I don’t really care about automapping. Myst IV is worse than previous Mysts in its transitions because it often takes you far enough that you can’t tell just how you’ve moved. One good point about RealMYST using the Quake engine and doing away with transitions. But in earlier Mysts I didn’t have much trouble mapping my way. In Myst IV I just punted on mapping and eventually figured my way around without it.

    2) My biggest problem with Myst IV is that many of the puzzles were pretty darned obscure, especially compared to the earlier games. Elements which didn’t make much logical sense, especially on Spire (Haven was more reasonable). Although the graphics and sound were lovely, I found it less playable than its predecessors.

    I really, really missed old-style zip mode. Boy, what a step backwards.

    You heard that Myst V has been announced (or maybe pre-announced), right? http://myst5.ubi.com/

    Also, if you haven’t played Alida, it’s a good one, if with a rather cheesy premise. http://www.alidagame.com/