It is not an exaggeration to say that Myst is the first game I ever remember laying my eyes on. Despite releasing in 1993 (when I did not exist yet), it remained a staple of the home computer for many years and lingered in the house waiting to be played. By the time I was able to control the PC myself, I have such distinct memories of roaming the desolate island, wandering aimlessly without a clue of what to do or where to go. As a child, the game captured my imagination in an extraordinary way, and although I never went back to the game to give it a real bash, it has always been a title cemented in my consciousness.
Being the best-selling PC game of its time and even being quickly referenced in a Treehouse of Horror Simpsons episode, it is perhaps of no shock that Myst has managed to remain so relevant after nearly three decades. Cyan has continuously revamped the title with various remakes, with the title Real Myst notably turning the 2D point and click adventure into a fully explorable 3D landscape. In many ways, Real Myst laid the groundwork for this most recent version of Myst, as Cyan has opted to implement this world into a virtual reality space on the Oculus Quest—while of course reworking many elements to fit this new medium.
Myst does not take much time to get things going, as after a short and mysterious intro scene (pun intended) that details our main character discovering a book and falling into it, we see our protagonist slowly fall into a void abyss before finding another book leading them to the island. The moment you find yourself in the headset looking upon Myst Island ranks up as one of the most mind-blowing moments I have ever experienced in my gaming career. Of course, my history with the title surely aids in this and will certainly do the same for many other fans, but it cannot be overstated what sheer power bringing such a classic title into the immersive freedom you have with the Quest has.
As is par for the course with Myst, you will most likely find yourself wandering the barren island discovering the various landmarks that seem to be locked behind some form of an abstract puzzle. Essentially, that is the core hook of Myst—the experience of being truly alone in this strange world with only your wits to aid you in your adventure. There is certainly a goal within Myst, and it is presented to you early on, but half the joy of the title comes from discovering the (admittedly quite loose) narrative. You travel to the various ages of Myst via the same type of books that got you to the island to begin with, with each age serving up another series of logic puzzles as well as an entirely different vibe between the worlds, some being more futuristic and others feeling rooted in historical intrigue.
In VR, this experience is enhanced to an extraordinary degree; even past the initial wow factor being in this famous world, the effort Cyan has taken to completely rework the puzzle interactions and the world in general does wonders to amplify that feeling of immersion that Myst always lent itself to wonderfully. Graphically—on the original Quest—things are initially a mixed bag, with textures taking a few seconds to fully load in, the render distance being somewhat limited in areas, as well as some distracting CGI character renders in the few cutscenes, yet the world itself manages to escape the limitations of the hardware thanks to the small details. With the classic music remaining intact and an atmosphere that is unparalleled in its genre, Myst knows exactly when to let you ponder in silence and just when to bring in that extra bit of non-diegetic sound to set the mood. Updates have already been pushed out to improve the graphical fidelity across the entire game, with lighting changes and ambient effects being added in, so the game may very well continue to look better as time goes on.
The teleportation option works just as well as the full locomotion, allowing you to move to any location via the click of a button on the controller, while still of course allowing you to have the full 360-degree field of view. It harkens back to the classic point and click style of the original title, while also offering a chance for those inclined to some VR motion sickness to try a mode that may put their minds at ease. The rest of the VR comfort options are also expansive, allowing you to tweak the experience to best fit your personal VR needs, while also never restricting those who feel they need no barriers in their experience. Where Myst is bound to cause discomfort for some is in the frame drops I experienced in the full locomotion mode, as moving around often felt choppy and extremely immersion-breaking. This is most definitely due to the limitations of the hardware, yet we have seen many other games push the Quest to its limits and not have these same issues—but again, Cyan have pushed updates to address these concerns as of writing.
The polarisation Myst will—and always has—garnered is found in the gameplay itself. Even with Cyan brilliantly bringing this near three-decade-old world into a brand new medium, the game certainly shows it age in a few spots. The game is cryptic; it was designed to be that way, with puzzles being solved through your own logic and perception of the world around you and the limited clues it gives you through books and drawings. Shockingly, I found a lot of the game to be far more accessible than what I had come to expect through its legacy, with most of the puzzles making sense once I had taken my time to explore my options and take mental notes of what I had seen. Speaking of notes though, many of these puzzles require you to make notes on a piece of paper in real life, and as hard as you may try, writing down something with a VR headset strapped to your head isn’t exactly the easiest task. Cyan has promised that a journal is coming to the game in a future update, but its lack of inclusion here is baffling, making some of the puzzles nigh impossible unless you take the headset off or use the incredibly immersion breaking Oculus Screenshot feature.
Even with the glaring omission of a journal, Myst in VR really took me by surprise. The cryptic nature of the puzzles was at times frustrating, but also immensely rewarding when completing them. It is a game that feels as if it was born to be in virtual reality, which is no easy feat considering it released back when VR was only a pipe dream. If you are up to the challenge, Myst will really get its hooks into you, thanks to the often haunting atmosphere and the way it allows you to escape into a world that lets you take things at your own pace and explore at your own free will. Hopefully, we will see the many sequels get the same treatment in the future.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]