When the CD-ROM was introduced into personal computing almost two decades ago, Rand and Robyn Miller created Myst--an adventure game that was considered the fledgling format's killer app. They took the puzzle-solving staples of adventure games, applied them to a first-person fantasy universe, and created one of the best-selling games of its time. Numerous ports and remakes later, Empire Interactive brings Myst to the Nintendo DS with additional features. Yet, these features--and the original content--go to waste because poor implementation and design decisions destroy what was supposed to be a surreal journey.
Myst for the Nintendo DS stays faithful to the original game's concept. You open a mysterious book and discover a window to another world, Myst Island. Placing your hand on the page whisks you off to the island, alone and confused. You eventually encounter two fellows trapped inside similar books; finding missing pages is the key to liberating them. Perhaps you could find a way home by helping them, so with only your wits and cryptic clues scattered about, you set off to other book worlds--called "ages"--to complete this task.
Moving around in Myst is a simple affair of touching areas of interest with your stylus. The world is presented via prerendered stills taken from a first-person perspective, so there's no avatar to show you how to get where you're going. In the original game, your cursor--a hand--would point in a direction depending on where you placed it. A click would instantly transition to the next scene. Thus it was easy to get lost, and the effect is exacerbated in the DS version. There's no cursor to indicate which direction you'll go in or an option to use the D pad. You also won't know if you're about to touch a navigation point or an interactive object, which can result in you walking around in circles as you try in vain to push a button or throw a lever.
Pinpointing where you need to touch to interact with items shouldn't even be an issue, but when the original scenery was shrunken to fit the DS screen the clickable areas got a lot smaller too. The result is a stylus-unfriendly game that takes pixel hunting to horrific new levels, leaving you to stab fiercely at the screen until something clicks. To make matters worse, the low-resolution scenes aren't smoothed out and they appear incredibly grainy. Not only is this visually unappealing, but it also makes it difficult to look for clues, such as numbers or words etched into a wall. Letters and books are spared this fate, with a magnifying glass feature that shows crisper text on the top screen. You can magnify the environment, too, but the result is a stretched out--not resized--version of the scenery, which looks even more mangled.
Many of Myst's challenging puzzles are harder to endure as a result of these frustrations. Conceptually, the puzzles are still clever, but many require backtracking to repeat actions and rereference clues. Pen and paper came in handy back in the day, so it would have been useful to be able to scribble notes and diagrams on the DS touch screen, in case you're playing on the go. Instead, all you get is a woefully undersized touch keyboard. In a time when Hotel Dusk gives you four pages of scribble space, this is unacceptable. The game does grant you the ability to take one--and only one--photograph of clues, as well as an overhead map illustration of the age that you're visiting, but in the face of the rest of this game's problems, these additions are trivial.
Even if you wanted to simply enjoy Myst's scenery, the grainy compression has shattered the beauty of the artistic design. What you see is a sad, freckled shell of the original game. The audio from the original game fares only slightly better: Hissing, scratching, and popping have turned CD-quality sound effects, dialogue, and gorgeous, ethereal music into a ham-radio affair. The puzzles that rely heavily on sound aren't terribly affected by this, but there must have been a better compression method out there to fit all of Myst's assets onto the DS card.
As one last offering, this port includes the Rime age, which never made it into the original game. Taken from Real Myst--a reimagining of the original game in a real-time polygonal world--Rime is short, underwhelming and seems sloppily glued on as a hasty afterthought. Because Myst for the DS fails to take advantage of the stylus, mistreats the source material to the degree that it does, and offers very little to compensate, there's absolutely no reason to take this full-priced game over other versions of Myst or over any other adventure game on the DS.