Review by Orb

Play Mysty for Me

This game, produced by H+a, was obviously meant to ride in the wake of the first-person graphic adventure success created by the release of Myst. It did, however, appear to die a quick death, slipping into obscurity right after release. It does have some merit, although there are many design weaknesses that limit the gamer's full enjoyment of these, which fully explains its lack of longevity in the big book of adventure games recorded somewhere in that big gamers' sky. It is not unpleasant to play, and it is a good lesson on what to include and what to leave out when creating a graphic adventure title.

The game begins with a mission briefing that bears a similarity to Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time. This is the only area of the game where there is the slightest voice acting, and this bit definitely has the "talking in a tomato soup can" syndrome. You are the fourth and final agent sent out to halt an unleashed computer virus named Gord@k, which has begun to spread out on its own, creating its own world that you must journey into to vanquish it. This is actually a clever premise and allows some fun surreal graphics and landscapes.

The game itself uses Quicktime VR technology, which I have always enjoyed, as I like the idea of the 360-degree panning to explore the environment and look for hotspots. This give the landscape, which is stylishly designed, an interesting immersiveness. You start by finding yourself in a garden, with trees cut into spirals and circles. The design is reminiscent of Chaos or The Castle, or the early silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari mixed with Dr. Seuss, which was one of my favorite things about the game. The gameplay itself is great, the design is weird, my kind of stuff.

The music is lilting and pleasurable, and despite looping, it does not get redundant or tiring. There were points when the music cut out a bit, but this was a minor complaint. The sound effects are extremely well-done, and there are no points to the game where the player notices the omission of a sound that should be naturally present, which is always something I am piqued about when left out. In fact, this game has a feature that I have not seen elsewhere, which I was actually delighted by and found myself laughing out loud over. When moving along, down a path clicked on, the game makes the player run hard, with heavy footfalls, and heavy panting as though it's a bit of a strain for the armchair commando you are. You get the feeling there's someone back there whipping you to go faster, and there's the sensation that the designer isn't interested in making a meal out of getting to the next locale like so many other games, but with the sound effects making it humorous, which I found very pleasurable. So I jogged through the whole game panting like a madman.

There is actually a nice mix of puzzles here—most are inventory-based, and there are three straight puzzles that are well-designed, difficult but not unsolvable. Inventory is nicely organized. Items are listed by name; when an item is scrolled to and selected, it appears in the lower left of the screen. To use it, you simply click on a hot spot, and if you are correct, you are rewarded with a small animation of it working. No clicking and dragging, and I thought this was a much cleaner, smoother way to accomplish interaction with inventory items. One problem is that there are key inventory items collected right at the beginning that are a necessity, and there are no hotspots for them. You must hold down the spacebar and click to get them, and this is not covered in the game booklet but only in the fine print in the documentation on the disk. This could easily be missed by the novice, making the game a quick dead end for the newbie. The three straight puzzles actually give the player the puzzle objective and directions in the lower right corner of the interface, which I thought was a nice touch.

There is a maze. My son, the shooter and strategy fan, had come in to watch a bit and cheer Mom on. When I hit the maze, he tried to run out of the room. Apparently, there are no types of gamers fond of mazes. The maze, however, is one of the best I've experienced. It is small enough that you can just wander around in it and not get lost, it's easy to get back out, plus there are two hot spots where using an inventory magnifier gives you a map, a great design feature.

There are, unfortunately, a large number of serious design flaws. There is only one saved game slot. Want to keep an extra saved game? Sure! Just start the game over from the beginning, buddy. What were they thinking? This is particularly putrid at the very end, where you are given the very first timed puzzle of the whole game, inexplicably, and instructions you have no time to read, and it is designed so that if you fail the game and Gord@k wins, it dumps your saved game and you have to start over from the beginning. Almost an unbelievably bad design choice, just about the worst I've ever seen. The only good thing about it at all is that the save feature is extremely easy to use, and it does not push you out of the environment to save. Because this feature is built this way, it seems the game would be much more frustrating to a beginner, someone who would not know what to look for and do, who would have to reexplore or retrace steps.

It also dumped out on me after the lengthy mission briefing, so I had to sit through that again after allocating more memory. There are tokens to be used at the beginning, and if you use them incorrectly, the game unbelievably dead ends and you have to start over. (Luckily, if this does occur, it's near the beginning of the game.) Volume control in the game wouldn't work properly and had to be run manually. Also, a zooming interface was buggy—it would zoom in and not unzoom, which made it useless. I got a script error at one point that made the game quit and erase my saved game. I tried it twice to check and both times had the same response, but it only occurred when the spacebar was held and the mouse clicked on that particular spot, so if that was not done, the game ran fine. But where were the beta testers? This was a big and easy bug to find! Also, any time you restart, you must sit through the whole soup can mission briefing again.

The overall pleasure in the game was brought down considerably just because of the overwhelming design flaws. One wonders if the designers ever played a graphic adventure title themselves because there are so many glaring omissions in the interface, etc. I can recommend playing this only because it's a very inexpensive diversion, and if you're experienced enough, you can work around the design flaws and still get quite a bit of enjoyment from it. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: H+a
Publisher: H+a
Release Date: 1996

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

System 7.5
Minimum Quadra, Power PC preferred
256 colors (thousands preferred)
2X ROM drive

Win 3.1, DOS 5.0
256 colors (thousands preferred)
2X ROM drive
8-bit SoundBlaster or compatible sound card

Where to Find It

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