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Review: 'Myst' sets pace for virtual realism

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

Using the mouse, you can virtually touch almost anything in the game's world, and it will react the same way it might in the physical world.

"Myst IV: Revelation," the latest entry in the multimillion-selling "Myst" franchise, is not only the most lifelike adventure in the series to date, but it's arguably the closest thing yet to virtual reality in a computer game.

"Myst" games are point-and-click adventures played from a first-person perspective, where you use the mouse to navigate around a surreal island and through various "ages" while solving brainteasers. Puzzles vary from pulling the right levers and gears to reading notes and applying the correct clues to manipulate an object.

Don't be afraid to touch

The environments in "Myst IV," which took more than three years to create, are so lifelike that you'll want to touch the water, trees and rocks.

In a way, you can.

Using the mouse cursor, which resembles a small hand, you can interact with the world of "Myst." You can "touch" water in a pond, for instance, and ripples will appear, or if you try to pet the wings of a bird that lands next to you, it will fly away.

"Myst IV" also creates realism with more than 70 minutes of video of characters who walk and talk with you as you explore the game's environments.

"Myst IV" is full of challenges that you'll need to solve in order to discover whether two evil brothers are involved in the disappearance of their young sister.

New to this version, you can adjust the level of hints (or take none at all) to prevent you from getting stuck on the journey. A new "amulet" feature also helps you locate objects with clues for solving riddles, such as audio and video clips.

You can use a camera, too, to take photos of objects, diagrams or text for future reference. These are stored in a journal that's integral to solving the game's puzzles.

The music in "Myst IV" is as extraordinary as its visuals. Renowned artist Peter Gabriel has teamed up with composer Jack Wall to provide a beautiful soundtrack that changes with the action.

Disk space hog

"Myst IV" ships on two DVDs and works on both Windows boxes and Macs. Plan on reserving 8 gigabytes of disk space to install the full game. A partial install consumes 3.5GB.

As a bonus, you also get a third DVD containing 2001's "Myst III: Exile."

If you enjoy solving challenging puzzles and couldn't care less about fast action, "Myst IV" delivers incredible entertainment. But steer clear of this title if you don't have the patience or savoir-faire to solve the game's conundrums because they can be frustratingly tough.

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