Myst III: Exile
One of the best selling PC series debuts on Playstation 2, but is Myst III any good?
If you are used to play games on your PC, it's almost impossible that you haven't come across, at least once, in a game of the Myst series, maybe one of the budget-price copies available in almost any computer shop.
The original Myst, developed by Cyan studios, was released in 1993, a golden period for adventures on PC. Together with its sequel, Riven, and with the more recent Myst III: Exile, the game sold more than nine million copies worldwide - a record that on PC was recently beaten only by The Sims.
Made of a succession of beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, Myst was a sort of "new age" point and click adventure where the "player" had to solve a series of puzzles - actually, a series of the most difficult puzzles ever seen in a videogame, that eventually became even more complex in Riven.
Myst III: Exile was released on PC a couple of years ago. While Presto Studios took the place of Cyan Studios in the development of the game, the game was based exactly on the same system of the preceding instalments.
While I recognize that it's all always a matter of personal tastes, a question inevitably pops in my mind. Does it really make sense to release a game like Myst III: Exile nowadays? With so many solid adventure games available, featuring also excellent puzzles, is there somebody out there that can still enjoy the lifeless, static experience offered by Exile? A question that becomes even more legitimate when a game like this is ported on a console.
Atrus, the main character of the whole series, is a wise man descending from the ancient D'ni civilization. Atrus has inherited from the D'ni the extraordinary power of creating books, known as Ages, containing worlds that originate from the written thoughts of the author.
In Myst III: Exile, Atrus has created a new book, called Releeshahn, modelled to give him and his daughter a possibility to live in peacefulness. But a mysterious man, Saavedro, steals the book and set on fire James's precious library. Saavedro wants vengeance over Atrus, who he considers responsible for the destruction of his world, Narayan. Atrus' sons, Sirrius and Acheron, destroyed Narayan, and Saavedro thinks that Atrus did nothing to save his dying world.
Your mission is to travel through 5 different Ages in order to find Saavedro and save the Age of Releeshahn.
While it's stupid to divide the players in two categories - PC players and Console players - it's undeniable that a game like Myst III is not what one would expect to find in the line-up of its Playstation 2. And if you love this series, chances are you've already bought a low-price copy of the game for your PC.
Anyhow, also the Playstation 2 version retails at just $19.99, nothing compared to the dreadful $50 you usually have to pay for a new game if you live in North America. Adding to that, the developers were kind enough to add the support for a USB mouse, which you should plug in the front of your Playstation 2.
Just imagine yourself sitting in front of your TV, pointing and clicking with your USB mouse plugged into your console over static pre-rendered backgrounds, where the only sign of life are the occasional FMV showing life-real actors, solving difficult puzzles tied together by a more than weak storyline. If you find all this amusing in some way, than you can think seriously about buying this game. But if you are like me, you should find all this a bit distant from the meaning of the word "amusing".
Don't get me wrong; I recognize the hypnotic power of Myst III. You move through this succession of sincerely beautiful scenarios that are gifted with an unmoving surrealistic atmosphere worth of a De Chirico's painting, and that just like the works of the Italian artist strike a strange anguish into the player's heart. There is art here, and I sincerely think that including Myst III in a museum of contemporary art would make sense.
The point is that even applying the word gameplay to Myst III is difficult. In the game, you move the camera around looking at the 360° pre-rendered backgrounds in first person; then you click on something on the screen, for example a door, and you move to the next room. Puzzles are scattered everywhere, and are the only thing that let us use the word gameplay for Myst III. They are reasonably difficult, but much easier than the ones of the preceding games of the series.
Even the story, engrossing in its premises, can't blend with this type of gameplay, and serves only to give you a slender reason to travel from one world to the other. Brad Dourif - an extraordinary actor who worked in various well-known movies, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the recent Lord Of The Rings - plays magnificently the role of Saavedro in the cut scenes where the villain explains his reasons and gives you hints to continue your voyage.
But unfortunately, that's not enough to save a gaming experience that offers little to no fun at all.