There are many iconic videogames players should try at least once even when they’re decades old and 1993’s Myst is certainly in that category. Thankfully, rather than having to find the classic point and click adventure in its original form developer Cyan has brought the experience into the modern world by entirely reworking it for virtual reality (VR). But can a videogame which is almost 30-years old still offer the same magic which has inspired countless puzzle titles?
Having never played the original this review is coming at the experience with fresh eyes, rather than a nostalgic perspective. When Myst arrived all those years ago it provided visuals, narrative and gameplay that hadn’t been done before so the prospect of entering this world in VR was an intriguing one. If you’ve played even a small part of the original then you’ll instantly be familiar with what’s been presented here, as the VR version does remain faithful to it in many ways, from the locations to the puzzles themselves.
For a bit of backstory without spoiling too much, you arrive on a very empty island which was home to a man called Atrus and his two boys, Sirrus and Achenar. Yet Atrus is nowhere to be found and the lads are trapped in two books, one blue and one red. They require your help escaping so you must travel to fours ‘Ages’ by way of magical books in order to do so. Everything is locked behind some sort of puzzle, where you’ll begin to encounter how well (or sometimes not) things have aged.
It’s easy to forget how difficult videogames back then could be, with no hand-holding or hints and tips, just thrown at the thing with a pat on the back. Myst in VR is no different, you’re given this island to explore with no clutter from HUD info or an inventory to worry about. It’s quite refreshing in a way, completely left to your own devices. Yet that does mean a lot of trial and error which is a good test of patience.
The puzzles themselves do vary wildly in terms of difficulty, from logic challenges to memory. Now, here’s where things get a little janky bringing flat-screen gaming into VR. On several occasions, Myst does advise to write things down as it’ll help along the way. That’s fine on a monitor with a pen and paper beside you but really immersion breaking to keep popping the headset off. A slight workaround is to use Oculus Quest’s screenshot or video capture features to record vital clues, although nipping back to the home screen still isn’t the smoothest of options.
As for the rest of the VR implementations, some are good and other unusual. It’s great to see plenty of interactive elements, buttons to push, levers to flip, dials to turn and so on – you get the gist. Yet your hands are always grey and when doing any of these actions suddenly turns into an orange orb for some reason, instead of gripping. So there is that disconnect. Beyond the puzzles themselves, there isn’t much else to play with, occasionally you’ll be able to pick up items such as bottles on tables which all instantly snap back to position – so no making a mess and smashing things up.
All the usual comfort settings are there such as smooth locomotion, teleporting and snap turning. Some of these like walking/running can be toggled in game, with running becoming the default as walking was just way too slow. Also, if you didn’t want to get too physical and climb/descend ladders there’s an auto mode which comes in handy.
But what if you were a die-hard Myst fan, is there any reason to come back? Cyan has anticipated this by adding a puzzle randomization option right at the start so that seasoned players won’t be able to just waltz on through. Plus, if you didn’t before there are still the four endings to unlock, although there didn’t seem to be any other secrets to find.
Myst promises a puzzle adventure and for the most part it delivers a solid VR experience. There’s enough here for a good 8 hours of comfortable gameplay even when considering some of the old-school elements employed. There will always be that nostalgia value for Myst to draw on and many players of a certain age will likely relish being able to truly step into this world for the first time. It’s no longer the groundbreaking experience it once was, yet Myst can still challenge players in its own unique way.