Long before the creators of the TV show Lost came up with the idea for an island littered with puzzles and mysteries, there was a puzzle-based adventure game called Myst, and they played it. First released for the Mac in 1993 (and then for the PC in 1995), Myst had a combination of gorgeous environments to explore, challenging puzzles to solve, and a great storyline that made it the best-selling computer game of all time until The Sims came along. It's a little hard to believe that a game like Myst could be ported to the Nintendo DS, much less with all-new features and an additional "age" that never made it into the original. It's been done, though, and last week we had an (all too brief) opportunity to check out a near-finished US version of the game.
Controls aside, the DS version of Myst plays exactly as the original game did. The stylus and touch screen are now used to perform the equivalent of mouse clicks, and to move around the island's varied environments you simply tap the screen where you want to go. The DS game is based on the original Myst rather than the subsequent Real Myst (which was played in full 3D), so you'll be moving from static screen to static screen as you explore the island looking for clues. Finding clues is the one thing that's actually a little more difficult on the DS than it was in the original game, because there's no way for you to scroll your cursor around the screen looking for it to change when it hovers over something that you can interact with. These aren't individual pixels we're talking about, though, and we certainly had no problem finding key items and puzzle pieces during our brief demo.
Myst is played almost exclusively on the touch screen where, beneath the view of your current locale, you'll find several "buttons" designed to make your progress through the DS version a little easier. For example, there's a camera with enough memory for one picture that you can use to photograph important clues, and there's a notepad with a couple of pages for you to scrawl clues and reminders to yourself on using the stylus. You can also check out a map of the island that's useful without going so far as to highlight your current location, and there's a magnifying glass that you can use to read pages of the many books you'll find on Myst Island.
Even if we'd had an opportunity to spend more time with Myst on this occasion we'd be reluctant to say too much about exactly what we saw and did for fear of spoiling the game for any of you who might be looking to experience the game for the first time. We can report that the DS game promises to do the Mac/PC original justice, though, and that--as far as developer Cyan Worlds is concerned--this is the first time that the whole game has been made available. The original game lacked the Rime Age that now appears at the end of the game, and while that was previously addressed in Real Myst back in 2000, that version's 3D engine proved detrimental to the experience and so it was largely ignored even by fans.
Myst for the DS is currently scheduled for release in North America in March. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.