capsule review

Myst IV: Revelation

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Cyan’s Myst is a game that truly defined its genre. Laden with brain-busting puzzles and beautiful scenery, this graphical adventure was the best-selling game of its day. A decade later, the fourth installment of Myst has been released. Although it was created by a different developer (Ubisoft), Myst IV: Revelation retains much of what made the original game so remarkable, while adding some nice embellishments.

Myst IV builds upon the mythology of the previous games. Atrus is the master of a mystical art that transforms books into portals, allowing you to travel to different worlds. At the game’s beginning you find yourself in Tomanha, the sanctuary world of Atrus; his beloved wife, Catherine; and their young daughter, Yeesha. You’ve been summoned to help Atrus solve a mystery. But after being knocked out in a sudden calamity, you awaken to discover that Yeesha is missing. Now you must set off to find her.

To do that, you’ll have to travel between four different worlds, interacting with characters and picking up clues to solve the game’s puzzles. Ultimately, you’ll discover what became of Sirrus and Achenar after Atrus banished them to their respective prison ages in previous games.

The game’s main attraction lies in its puzzles. And Ubisoft offers up plenty of challenge in this area. For example, one of the first puzzles you face requires that you channel a specific amount of power to a nearby power station. To do so, you have to juggle the existing power between different conduits.

In previous Myst games, it was sometimes difficult to know when you’d correctly solved a puzzle. Making changes in one spot might affect things somewhere outside of that area entirely. Although there’s some of this in Myst IV, the designers have been careful to offer you enough clues to let you know when you’ve succeeded. They’ve also managed to string everything together in a logical and coherent manner.

If you get stuck along the way, the game offers a built-in help system complete with three layers of hints: the first layer offers a vague push in the right direction, the second layer provides more detail, and the third layer spells out just what you need to do.

Navigating through Myst IV couldn’t be easier—just click on where you want to go, and you’ll move there. This node-based architecture lends itself to an economy of movement and an understanding that your environment isn’t nearly as important as what’s in it. But fans of first-person shooters may be frustrated at their inability to use the forward and back keys to walk through scenes.

This simplicity of movement belies the complexity of the game’s graphics. Each point on the map is rendered in 360 degrees, so as you visit each location, you can look left, right, up, or down to get a better sense of what’s around you. What’s more, the game employs very advanced particle effects, animations, and 3-D graphics to create a sense of realism—everything from streaming rays of sunlight to falling leaves caught in the wind. The game has a startling level of detail that is, at times, painfully beautiful.

All of this graphic detail results in fairly steep system requirements. You’ll need an ATI Radeon 7500 or Nvidia GeForce2 MX 3-D graphics card or better. However, Ubisoft disclaims full support for the laptop models of these cards. That seems preposterous given the huge popularity of mobile systems, especially on the Mac platform. The company suggests that it may support additional chip sets after the game’s release. Let’s hope so; otherwise, sales on the Mac are bound to suffer.

Ubisoft recommends having at least 128MB of memory. But anecdotal evidence suggests that this is woefully inadequate on OS X. For best performance, I recommend at least 1GB of RAM.

Ubisoft deserves kudos for developing and releasing Myst IV on Windows and the Mac simultaneously. It ships in one package for both platforms, so you don’t have to worry about looking for it specifically in the Mac section of your local retailer. As a special bonus, Myst IV’s predecessor, Myst III: Exile, is also included in the pack. This underrated game was overlooked by many Myst loyalists. Personally, I thought it was the best of the bunch—until now—and I encourage you to check it out.

The Bottom Line With challenging puzzles and gorgeous graphics, Myst IV: Revelation builds on what has made past Myst games so good.

This is the first of many brain-busting puzzles you’ll need to solve in Myst IV: Revelation.
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