Almost thirty years later and Myst is still king.
Myst is a major bullet point in the history of game design. Since its initial release in 1993, Myst has existed as the gold standard of point-and-click adventure games. Its design has had a major influence on everything from Nintendo’s own Metroid Prime to TV shows such as Lost. Myst is to adventure games as Super Mario Bros. is to 2D platformers, and its importance to history cannot be overstated. All that being said, it is also a glorified slideshow. The original Myst used an extensive series of still images to abstractly represent a rich, living 3D world. At the time, this was cutting edge while still being very easy to run on computers of the time. The concept of RealMyst then is to take the classic game and make it more approachable to modern gamers who may not have grown up with it. It was initially released in 2000 before itself being remastered in 2014 as RealMyst Masterpiece Edition, and updated to version 2.0 in 2015. Finally in 2020, we can play this remaster of a remake of Myst on the Nintendo Switch. Mystified yet?
As there is likely, by now, an entire generation who would have no idea what Myst is, let’s start with the basics. Myst starts you off on the dock of a small island (the titular, Myst Island). You’re given no immediate explanation of what to do or where to go. Around the island you’ll find a series of toggles, a sunken ship, a rocket ship, an observatory, library, power station, and so much more. Virtually all of these places and things can be interacted with in some way, but figuring out exactly what they do is up to you. You’ll also have your first encounter with two brothers who have been trapped inside red and blue books in the library. Each of these brothers will want you to help them by bringing them pages that match the color of their book. You’ll find these pages and more details surrounding the brothers and their families across several different ages. Each age is a unique world and can be entered by finding that age’s book on Myst Island.
The tone of Myst is difficult to describe. It is otherworldly in its sense of strange mystery; it is ethereal in its feeling of magic and uncertainty; and it is haunting in its pervasive loneliness. Even in its original incarnation I remember finding the ages of Myst to be somewhat disturbing. There is a melancholy feeling to exploring worlds that feel so thoroughly abandoned despite seeming recently populated. Adding to this is the incredible sound design, which holds up perhaps better than any other element of Myst. Music is not constant, but sound always is. The use of soundscapes and music is always intentional and perfectly accentuates the experience.
When I first played Myst on my PC as a kid, I kept a notebook beside me at all times to write myself notes and keep track of any codes or hints I found. I distinctly remember the manual telling me that everything was important and I should write everything down. Playing on Switch makes this whole experience a bit easier thanks to screen captures. I found myself taking screenshots of anything that looked like it may be important so I could reference them later. While I do wish this was a bit more integrated at a software level, the base level of functionality is extremely helpful.
While not quite as pretty as the PC version, RealMyst Masterpiece Edition on Switch does an excellent job on converting the original still images to living 3D environments. That being said, even with a few graphical downgrades there are still some areas that cause framerate issues. Fortunately, this isn’t a game that demands a high level of performance. There are no enemies or timed events in Myst, so a few dropped frames doesn’t do too much damage to the overall experience. When playing in handheld mode you’ll also have the option of switching to classic mode. With this mode enabled the game will mimic the controls of the original release. Rather than giving you full first person controls, the touch screen can be used to navigate just between pre-set points. Both play styles work great, but for those looking for something a bit more like the original experience, the classic mode is a wonderful option. It should also be noted that this version also includes the new age that was added for the 2000 release. I won’t go too deep to avoid spoilers, but even for those who grew up with Myst, there are fresh experiences to be had here.
It is hard to call Myst anything other than a masterpiece, and this modernized version is no exception. The worlds of Myst continued to be developed for years after the original's release, and while its sequels developed on the incredibly rich lore and plot, for my money none of them ever quite recaptured the feeling of the original. While the Switch version has some minor performance issues, they’re more than made up for by portability and the option to play with touch controls in classic mode. If you’ve never played Myst, or if you grew up with the original, take this excuse to journey back to the ages of Myst and get lost all over again.