Only a couple of years after they took an interest in computer games, Hollywood finally got one right. But not without a little inspiration - or highway robbery, depending on how you look at it. GT Interactive's Nine dumps you in a mysterious mansion that you have somehow inherited. You're not really sure what the story is, so you acquaint yourself with your mission by clicking endlessly on random objects and solving puzzles. Sound brutally similar to a game you may have heard of? Let's just say if you're champing at the bit for Myst II, this will satiate your appetite for now. And even if you're one of the brave few who actually admitted that they hated Myst, you may still want to check this out for a few simple reasons: better graphics, actual interaction with characters and moving objects, and a more coherent storyline. The biggest shocker of all? It actually plays like a game, rather than a Novocaine-induced walk through the forest.
That's not to say Nine is without fault. The various puzzles you have to solve are a mixed bag. While many are straightforward brain teasers (for instance, there's a challenging Concentration-like puzzle that requires you to match two sound effects out of several dozen possibilities), unfortunately, most require more patience and blind luck than actual noggin-crunching. Make sure your pointer finger is limber before you start playing - there's a good chance you'll end up getting stuck in a marathon session of mindless mouse-clicking.
Fortunately, unlike Myst, playing this game for hours at a time won't leave you in a coma. The art and animation in Nine are fantastic. The often creepy, carnival-like 3D graphics are great eye candy as you plug along, and the music and sound effects are also enthralling. As for the Hollywood hook, it actually has a point this time around. The characters' voices - provided by the likes of Cher, Christopher Reeve, James Belushi, and Aerosmith band members - actually help make the game more vivid and interesting. Salty, the character played by Belushi, is a bizarre, cranky fellow who shows up from time to time to give you tips - a godsend for some of the more random puzzles.
The goal of the entire game is simple: get rid of the bad seeds that inhabit your newly acquired mansion. But, as the game's packaging boasts, it isn't easy. If you're still boasting that you solved Myst in under 14 hours, give this one a shot. It may not take you as long to finish, but it's a far more beautiful and less disorienting ride.