One of the best-selling PC games of all time has seen a variety of ports and remakes. Of the many that have come and gone over the years, none is as tragic as the absolutely broken port of Myst to the DS, done by Hoplite Research. When a mere game critic is not only able to point out flaws, but suggest simple, workable solutions, you know that the game was either the handled by the inept, the lazy, or both.
It may seem simple, even intuitive, that a “point-and-click” adventure be put on Nintendo’s touch screen-enabled handheld. But take note, friends. “Point” and “click” are two different verbs; they are different actions, each being a different function. The first, on the PC, is also known as “mouseover.” You explore the screen in front of you with this feature, without making any commitment to where you want to perform the next task, which is the “click.” The click determines your destination, or will perhaps have you interact with some sort of device (perhaps a switch, or a button). Thanks to the almighty power of the mouseover, an icon on screen informs the player of what the “click” action’s result is. The icon could be an arrow, or a pointed finger, or a hand; this is a staple in the point-and-click adventure, and it functioned quite well in Myst.
Well in Myst DS, they simply cut the “point” in point-and-click. Wherever you hit with your stylus (and only with your stylus, as the buttons and D-pad do absolutely nothing), the programmed action for that spot on the image will take place. But here’s a good question: how do I know what’s going to happen when I touch the screen? I think that’s a button in front of me, but I am staring at a super-compressed lo-res image on a handheld screen. Let’s try it: oh great, new screen. Did I turn left, right, or move back or forward? Maybe I’m looking up? I have no idea. Thanks Hoplite Research … thanks a lot.
Here are two simple solutions that could have easily been employed. Solution one: the first “touch” of the screen starts the mouseover function, which can be controlled by the stylus or the D-pad. The proper icons actually appear on screen (that’s right, no helpful pointer icons in this port). A double-touch (like a double-click, but with a stylus) would execute the “click” function, and we’d be on our way. Alternatively, simply holding down the stylus and letting an icon appear, then letting go of the touch screen being the “click” activation…yeah, that would have fixed things nicely too. Did anyone with a brain bother to incorporate this in the DS port? No!
Now, even if this were the only game’s flaw (trust me, it’s not), this would be enough to break the game so completely that it wouldn’t be worth playing on the DS. But there’s more. Oh yes, there’s plenty more.
Myst was originally released for PC and Mac in 1993 on one CD-ROM, using 640×480 display and 8-bit color. A full 15 years later, you’d think that sort of thing would be easily ported to a handheld (320×240) screen without compression issues. Apparently, the folks at “Hoplite” were incapable here as well. The glossy compression we see here is unfathomably bad. Blocky pixels, shading errors, even major problems like negative-colorizing appearing on random sections of images. And that’s just the stills. Don’t get me started on the embedded movie files. Those just didn’t turn out well at all…
Pretty much the only thing that did survive the port was the sound. Though, again, the voiced dialogue that you hear from Atrus and his sons during the “movie” sequences sound fuzzy through the DS speakers. But the music survived the transition, thankfully.
As for the story, there wasn’t much they could do to butcher this. Heck, they even tacked on the bonus “Rime Age” that was added in PC-based remakes of the game (Masterpiece Edition and RealMyst, that is). But, part of enjoying the plot to Myst comes from reading the books. Here, the developers did actually develop something useful, the “magnifying glass” tool. Whatever part of the text you “zoom” on the bottom screen appears larger and, finally, readable on the top screen. This was about the only positive and worthwhile innovation the developers came up with. A dozen more of those, and about six months work of major programming fixes, and I’d be satisfied.
No one loves Myst more than I do. That’s why I bought this game. Whoops. Stay very far away from this port. Virtually any other port will do, but not this one.