I have never really been a PC gamer but thanks to the excellent sales of GOG.com I have managed to get myself a few retro games that I missed through the years, well known titles like Dungeon Keeper 2, Theme Hospital or Syndicate (the latter being impossible by the way). Yesterday I started Myst and it has given me a real insight into the inspiration behind the atmosphere of certain modern games. Fez, Proteus and the forthcoming The Witness all seem to have a Myst feel and I love it.
It’s a strange feeling and hard to characterise. Adventure is definitely a part of it but there is no danger like Another World or Outcast. If I compare Myst or Myst-like games to Ni No Kuni which I started last week there are definitely parallels and both take a regular person somewhere strange and wonderful but one is full of kind hearts and cruel monsters where the other is not. Myst has no peril, no fail state, no death, no checkpoints and not even any characters to meet, just a world that is there to be explored and deciphered. Fez is probably the closest recent example and both have a hands-free approach in gently tempting the player into unlocking it’s world. They also both share a terrible map screen and navigation but never mind.
This approach is not for everyone. There is a lot of headscratching and clicking on stuff and then clicking on it again. If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results then everyone that has played Myst must be absolutely barking (Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro was clearly not a point and click man). But it’s this frustration that makes games like this so compulsive, finding that breakthrough, that flash of inspiration (or luck) that gets you through a bottleneck is intensely satisfying. Cruelly, the more annoyed you get the greater the satisfaction. It’s kind of like when you finally get to the toilet after having to wait an uncomfortably long time. So there you have it, playing Myst is like having a wee … in a good way.