Originally released on Macintosh in 1993, Myst immersed players in a first-person adventure that was truly ahead of its time, both visually and conceptually. Real-time 3D rendering was still in its infancy back then, so there was something unique about Myst’s rich pre-rendered environments and its simple (but effective) story, which was told across 2,500 point-and-click stills. Cyan, the same studio who help pioneer the adventure game genre with the original Myst, have now rebuilt the game from the ground-up for traditional monitors and VR headsets, launching first on Oculus Quest. Peeling back the nostalgic sheen, it’s clear there’s still something special about Myst, although it’s undoubtedly a product of its time.

MYST Details:

Available On: Oculus Quest (SteamVR release TBA)
Release Date: December 10th, 2020
Price: $30
Developer: Cyan
Reviewed On: Quest 2

Note: My first and only encounter with Myst was in the mid-90s, and I never finished it as a kid. Much of the game is completely new to me, so I’m approaching the review as an (almost) entirely new player. Some of our readers have probably played Myst before, either the original or the remaster on PC from 2000. I’ll also be diving into the game’s overall implementation on VR headsets.

Gameplay

I remember only brief glimpses of Myst as a kid in the ’90s. I would quizzically peer over my mom’s shoulder, not really knowing what the hell was going on as she worked her way through the game’s many puzzles on her home office desktop. Eventually I got into puzzle adventures with Riven (1997), the sequel to Myst, but only after I got my own computer and my brain was decidedly less mushy and stupid.

The original Myst (1993) | Image courtesy Rock, Paper, Shotgun

I was 10 years old when I first, and probably last saw Myst in the flesh. My mom admits she never finished it; she was too busy writing novels and trying to not go insane from the constant moving around the country with two rambunctious kids in tow, a built-in feature of my dad’s former life as an officer in the US Air Force. My nostalgia for Myst is pretty surface level, since I never actually played the game and only have fleeting memories of spaceships, switches, and two fantastical brothers locked inside books who would shout at you. They didn’t seem very nice.

Forget the nostalgia though. Playing the new Myst on Quest feels a bit like teleporting inside a giant mechanical clock that someone’s intentionally broken, and then filled with scraps of paper on how to fix it. You can’t break the clock any worse than it’s already been broken by fiddling with its gears, but you can’t fix it that way either. You need to look everywhere and write down clues. If you’re looking for a new challenge, the new Myst also lets you randomize puzzle solutions.

Image courtesy Cyan

For a modern game, sometimes the linearity of Myst’s puzzles seems positively obtuse though: find a hidden note to find a hidden code to push a button to reveal a lock to open a door. It’s no more difficult than assembling an IKEA shelf—lose a plastic widget though, and you’ll be stuck in an infinite loop of despair until you can find it, slot it into place, and continue on your journey. That’s not to say that all puzzles are like that. A few are genuinely cool and make you think.

But in many cases, puzzles can be (putting it mildly) less than fun at times for new players. I can see how nostalgia may fill the gaps for anyone who wants to experience it all over again though, but in the plush, interactive environment of real-time graphics.

Image captured by Road to VR

However fastidious, there’s still something to Myst, and even more so now that it’s in VR. In an age of constant voice overs and omnipresent ‘helpful’ NPCs telling you where to go next, I found the old school approach to game design to be surprisingly  refreshing on some level, and actually more immersive at points. I was alone—truly alone—and if I wanted to get off this damn island, I would have to dig deep and do something I normally hate to do in games: read and pay close attention.

Image captured by Road to VR

Reading in the game is actually a pretty natural experience, making books more like real objects that draw in your curiosity than on-screen manuals that you mechanically click through until you get to the good bits. A central library houses all of the game’s books, which does some of the heavy lifting in terms of world building. And the books aren’t written guides as such; some have clues and diagrams and some just tell the story of the benevolent Atrus and his two boys, Sirrus and Achenar.

Image courtesy Cyan

Without spoiling the plot, his kids are rotten turds in their own special ways. Locked inside their own books inside the library, you have to complete each of the game’s four worlds (called ‘Ages’) to retrieve pages from each of their books. Who should you release with the final set of pages? Well, that’s up to you. There’s four different endings based on your last choice, and you can save whenever you want to experience them all.

Despite the interesting environments, sometimes fun puzzles, and the game’s pedigree as a pioneer in the space, there’s still a few things that don’t translate to VR, or any modern gaming platform for that matter.

Image courtesy Cyan

A few of the puzzles are obviously based on trial and error, requiring you to write down every time you’ve found yourself in a dead end. That’s infuriating, and even more so when you’re desperately trying to stay in-headset so you don’t break the delicate spell of immersion. More on that below.

In all, it took me around eight hours to complete Myst, with another hour spent experiencing all of the different endings, and going back to prod around gadgets for Easter eggs or alternate solutions (there don’t seem to be any). I have mixed impressions of Myst. Some puzzles are great, some are infuriating time-wasters built to test your resolve.

Immersion

One of the biggest things you’ll notice is how the world has been rebuilt for real-time gameplay. You can physically pick up books, pull levers, and slide open doors. Object interaction is really very basic though; your hand disappears when you grip an object, becoming an orange orb that only returns to its grey plastic mitt when you’ve released something. Physical objects also magically snap back to their anchored location when you let go of them, which is understandable, if not a bit immersion-breaking when you just want to switch a book or note between hands.

Keeping close to the source material, there aren’t any other beings inside the world besides a few errant butterflies flapping around back at Myst though. Since it’s pretty barren in terms of complex animations, it feels like Cyan had a good overhead to keep things looking nice on Quest. It’s a bit sterile, but for a remake it’s particularly well done.

Image courtesy Cyan

But like the original, there’s still no real inventory or way to take notes in-game, which seems counterintuitive given the player’s physical agency in VR. Cyan says they’re adding an in-game note-taking feature soon—but for now, you’ll be stuck going about decoding the game’s complex puzzles with old fashioned pen and paper. Nose gap, be praised.

Photo captured by Road to VR

You can take snapshots of clues using Quest’s native system-wide camera tool, but you’ll have to constantly pop out of the game to scroll through your library: a real pain in the ass in terms of immersion. Unless the game lets you draw with virtual pen and paper in the upcoming update, you’ll still need the real thing when it comes to the Selenitic Age, which houses the worst, most pointless maze in the game.

One of the shining moments in Myst though is the game’s sound design. In puzzles that work with running water, positional audio is key to keeping you on the right pathway, as you follow successive networks of pipes around the map. It also lets you know when a far-off mechanism was tripped correctly, and in which direction you may find it.

Comfort

Myst features both variable snap-turn and smooth turning. You can also toggle smooth forward locomotion and teleportation on the fly, which can be helpful when ascending winding staircases, which normally make me queasy. There aren’t any vomit-inducing rides to worry about either, so Myst can be a very comfortable experience.

Watch out for staircases | Image courtesy Cyan

That said, you’ll probably find yourself running at full clip from one clue to the next, or running back to a switch you forgot to put to head on to the next level. The game’s walking speed feels a tad too slow, and its running speed a tad too fast for comfort.

Thankfully, Myst can be played either seated or standing, as it includes and both an auto height detection feature and manual adjustment to keep you where you need to be.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
6.5

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  • Pablo C

    Will wait for PC VR

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    1993 Myst had hard puzzles too. That’s the charm of the game. It’s not meant for kids.

    • DanDei

      yes, but there is a difference between fun hard and frustrating hard. Myst was always in the middle between both. In 1993 people were just more willing to go through those pains for an at the time great looking game.

      • Rudl Za Vedno

        Yeah, that’s why I prefer playing older games. Today’s 90% of today’s AAA titles lack difficulty and ‘soul’. Just finished indi game ‘Call of the sea’. What a gem! No AAA adventure in the last years comes close imo, yet noone is talking about it. That’s the state of today’s gaming community. Gaming has become more about marketing & graphics than a great story and gameplay :( That’s why I’m looking forward to playing Myst once more.

        • AtrusHB

          You should try Outer Wilds (that’s WILDS, not Worlds), it’s the closest any game’s come to capturing the magic I felt playing Riven.

      • mirak

        Cyan games are art.
        That’s why you agree to “waste time” not immediately finding solutions.

        • User_Name_24601

          Exactly. I loved Obduction for that reason. So much to see and explore.

  • DanDei

    No finally we go the answer to the question how Myst would have looked in Unreal Engine 2.
    Waiting for PC version with hopefully much, much, much better assets

    • Rudl Za Vedno

      Just look at screenshots of Myst on steam :) PCVR version will look much nicer, I’m willing to wait. Wireless via virtual desktop + Quest 2 at 1.5 resolution should be way better experience than Oculus version.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Still don’t get why they opt for resolution scaling a lot of times instead of just also having native resolution (if you have the power for it). I understand with older games in the beginning of the current consumer VR age, but now I also want native resolution as the scaling a lot of times has problems with moving object like your hands..

  • Kevin White

    Are we going to get VR versions of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour?

    :o)

    • Andrew Jakobs

      That would be very cool.

    • Charles

      They’re gonna combine them into a single game, called “The 7-11 Guest”. Comes with a voucher for a free Slurpee.

      • Jonathan Winters III

        I’ll wait for the hoagie promo.

  • Ad

    Yeah being able to use desktop view and more useful passthough on a PC headset will be useful for this. Multi app tools for note taking aren’t ready yet but will eventually be useful as well.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I normally don’t like the original type of Myst on a flat screen, but in VR it’s actually one of the type of games that I really enjoy playing, so looking forward to playing it in VR.

  • mirak

    I did all the sequels to Myst except Myst.
    I really love Cyan games, they are the rare game that I don’t get mad at. xD

    I loved Obduction in VR, so now I can do finally Myst, but in VR, this is great.

  • martin

    will play it, but im somewhat dreading the puzzles you deem to be not fun. curious to see how well the game holds up after 27 yrs.

    • User_Name_24601

      Haven’t replayed it yet in VR, but as someone who played it as a kid, I thought most of the puzzles were fun. There’s one age I didn’t really “get” the logic behind the puzzles. But also, I was 11.

    • xxHanoverxx

      It’s fair. For example, one of the clues you find is a time followed by a list of numbers, and there’s only one clock on the island, so you can pretty much use common sense to know where the clue needs to be used. Most of the puzzles are like that.

  • I want Monkey Island VR for other nostalgia in Virtual Reality!

    • mirak

      Maupiti Island had a project and a kickstarter

  • Ah, that’s why I didn’t hear about Myst until long after it’s release, it was a game on Apple. I suppose I was too busy playing DOOM on my PC to notice.

    • Lhorkan

      It was definitely also on PC, I played it as a child on one.

      • User_Name_24601

        Same.

  • namekuseijin

    this good is better than 99% of minigames on Quest

  • benz145

    Thanks for reading our review! Please note the following before commenting so that we can have a thoughtful discussion:

    • We scored this game 6.5/10 – ‘Good’ by our linear scale.

    • Even if the text of the review focuses more on critique than praise, or vice versa, the score aims to boil down the reviewer’s overall opinion of the experience.

    • If you haven’t played the game, understand the limits of your knowledge.

    • If you have played part of the game, your experience may differ from those who have completed it in its entirety.

    • Road to VR does not ever accept payment for reviews or any editorial content.

  • GeRong

    I want to know whether this new version got anything new beside all old same content from Myst like hidden ages or new extra puzzles? (I like the extra hidden age in realMYST)