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Myst DS: Bringing What You Myst

After many sequels and several re-releases, the original Myst is about to be released on the Nintendo DS in a style that both stays faithful to the original release and adds the necessary features to make the game enjoyable and playable on a modern handheld system.

Myst DS will not only contain the original four ages, Channelwood, Mechanical, Selentic and Stoneship, but also the Rime Age which was previously only seen in the under-exposed version called realMyst. Rime Age was originally meant to appear in the first version of the game, but production time and cost, as well as the sheer size of the game, prohibited it from appearing in the release. While Myst DS won't have the weather or 3D effects that realMyst had, besides the inclusion of the Rime Age and some added bonuses for being on the DS, this release is going to be a copy of the earliest version.

When I say the game tries to be as close to the original creation as possible, this means that the developers, Hoplite Research, did all they could to reproduce the original Myst experience, right down to the on-screen video and vocals along with a completely remastered soundtrack taken from the raw files created back when Myst first came out. In order to get the video onto the DS and not cause too much of a space problem, the development team had to come up with a proprietary compression algorithm.

Besides the inclusion of the arctic Rime Age, Myst DS also takes advantage of the system's dual screen and touch screen features. In an effort to balance gameplay and make it as close to the original experience as possible, the developers have added a few features. Anyone who has played Myst (or most other adventure games) in the past, will probably remember taking notes or drawing sketches in order to remember various facts later. This game will have a mini-toolbar at the bottom of the touch-screen that will give you access to a notebook and a camera. The benefit to having a notebook in-game should be pretty obvious, you won't accidently forget your notes just because you rushed out the door. And the camera will be able to store one image of your choosing. This is great for those puzzles that require you to remember the order that objects appear on the screen or how something looks so that you can move to another area of the island or age and not have totally forgotten what you saw. This toolbar also gives you a magnifying glass that will let you see certain objects, like books, in more detail. In the previous versions of this game, the screen was replaced by the detailed view, here the top-screen shows the detail.

The last enhancement that comes with the toolbar and DS release is the ability to use the top screen as a map. While the map will have a lot of detail about the age you are in, the developers didn't want to make the game too easy for you, so they didn't tell you where you are on the map. There is also an option to turn on "Zip Mode", which was an ability introduced in one of the later versions of Myst that let you easily move to areas of the world that you have already visited.

Between the included notepad, camera and map, I feel like this game will have everything you need to use in order to fully explore the Myst Island as if you were at your computer, except you don't actually have to be sitting at a keyboard.

When asked, the developers commented that, like the original, there would be no in-game help. This means that, unless you look up hints, you are pretty much on your own. Also of note is the exclusion of any kind of added help for people who are color blind or have trouble differentiating specific notes, which can make certain puzzles (like the piano puzzle in the rocketship) troublesome.

One of the reasons Myst DS has been pushed for remaking and handheld development is because the developers remember the people who couldn't finish the game originally and just never got a chance to get back to it. This way, you can finally see how the game plays out, because if you don't have the ability to make progress right away, you can always bring your DS with you and continue on the road. This release also allows a whole new generation of people, who may have heard of the game but never played it, to experience the game that helped to start a new age in adventure games. As for remaking the game's sequels on the DS, Hoplite said that they have been looking into Riven, but because that game is four or five times bigger, it will be much more of a challenge.

Expect to see Myst DS on the streets in mid-March with an ESRB rating of Everyone. I personally can't wait for this game to come out, especially since I missed realMyst and entry into Rime Age, and what you do in it is still a mystery to me.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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