9.2

Myst IV: Revelation review
Beautiful, Challenging, and Unforgettable - Everything a Good Puzzle Game Should Be

The good:

~The scenery is awe-inspiring, utilizing both a classic fantasy and sci-fi style of architecture.
~The plot is half of what keeps you going, as it's interesting to follow and full of twists and turns.
~The addition of in-game puzzle help is many a gamer's answered prayer.
~The graphics have gotten better at incorporating the trademark human actors into the scene.
~The game is the longest yet, which is great for savoring the experience.

The bad:

~Lack of bad endings diminish the already-low replay value.
~Puzzles can require backtracking over an area many times.
~Loading times for getting from one "node" to another can be long.
~Some of the acting borders on corny.
~No Easter Eggs can be found in the game, which is a let-down compared to past games.

Summary:

Even though the very first Myst game had come out almost ten years prior, the franchise was still going strong. So, of course it was no surprise when Cyan released the fourth installment in the series, Revelation. But what makes this game special is that it takes a fairly different approach from any of the other games in existence. Although this might make it a hit-or-miss among fans, I personally believe that it has made one of the greatest games in the series.

Part of what makes this game different is that the plot, which in earlier games had centered around saving entire races of people, now takes a more personal approach. Atrus, the main character, is enjoying his life in the home he has built for himself, his wife Catherine, and their daughter, Yeesha. At Catherine's urging, he's even starting to build a chamber for his newly-made Prison Books that hold his two evil sons captive (if you played the first game, you'll remember that he burned the original books). Catherine thinks that her sons have reformed over the years and should be let free, but Atrus still has misgivings, so he calls upon you, his "dear friend", in order to give him your opinion.

Of course, evil steals into the game as swiftly as it did in the past. While Atrus is off fixing something on the Age (read: world) Rime, Yeesha suddenly goes missing. Her amulet (which can show memories when around certain objects) is found, and it is revealed that at least one of her brothers is responsible for the disappearance. The question is, which one? The adventure that ensues is sure to be the most intense yet, as you attempt to rescue Yeesha. (Unrelated fact: Catherine makes no appearance in this game, and yet is supposed to be important to the plot. Isn't that a tad strange?)

As you can probably predict from playing the earlier games, this game is still point-and-click. However, you are free to rotate your vision around a full 360 degrees, and there are plenty of interactive objects to be found. There has never before been so much life around you, as lizards crawl over rocks and birds fly over your head. (Note: This can apparently cause some strain on your system. Luckily, you can disable this in the options.) It's also a pleasure to explore the lands you move through, as you go everywhere from a creature-infested jungle to a tall mountain-like tower made out of crystal. With the help of your improved hand cursor (which looks like a real hand and changes shape depending on the action you can perform), you can grab objects, poke them, tap them, and press them. These functions, along with the realistic hand cursor, seem to blend into the game experience and add realism to the already-real first-person perspective.

The graphics are drop-dead beautiful, as they incorporate both a fantasy and a futuristic style of architecture. Atrus's home is by far the most interesting collection of buildings I have ever seen, with plenty of windows letting the sunlight in, and plenty of creative little details to be found everywhere. Of course, many of these features are points for puzzles (for instance, a fireplace and bookcase that are secretly elevators). And even is they have no deeper meaning, the amulet provides nice little insights into daily life for the family.

The audio is another remarkable feature as well, as every little action you perform has realistic sound effects that relate to whatever you're performing the action on. Metal sounds like metal, fabric sounds like fabric, wood sounds like wood, and water sounds like water. It's really a joy to feel that you really are touching wood, water or fabric. In addition, the music is beautiful (especially in Serenia, the last Age you visit in the game), and it seems almost unthinkable to non-gamers that such beautiful music should appear in a computer game. Shows them up, though, as this game's music offers up a full orchestra and a complete choir. It's really quite mind-blowing.

One point of the game that is sadly disappointing, though, is the apparent lack of any Easter Eggs or hidden content. A Myst fan might recall the high amount of hidden features that were found in the second game, Riven. In comparison, this game is relatively straightforward - what you see is what you get, and there's nothing secret to be found (that is, outside of what's involved in the game). It's a little sad, considering what tricks Cyan might have tossed into the game to spice things up.

Another thing that might get on some gamers' nerves is the difficulty level of many of the puzzles featured in the game. Although the in-game help is an answered prayer (and certainly a better option than a frantic search on Google), the puzzles still require some time and skill to complete. To make matters worse, loading times for each "node" or clicking point of the area can be ridiculously long. It'll make you at least a little mad when you need to wait every time you click to go on when you're excited to get futher in the game. Thankfully, the return of the Zip Mode (which allows you to immediately teleport to a pre-determined location that you've already visited) allows you to bypass some of this wait time.

Lastly, the game has very little replay value. Unlike the past two games, Riven and Exile, there are a meager three endings, one of which is good, and the other two of which involve your death. It's pretty sad, compared to Riven's seven or eight endings and Exile's nine or ten. Therefore, once you've finished the game, watching the other endings takes five minutes at most.

Revelation keeps its spirit in the same vein as the rest of the earlier Myst games, providing challenging puzzles, riveting plots, and imaginative scenery. However, it takes a different focus, centering around Atrus's family for once rather than on the people he looks after. Most of all for the series, it adds a resolution to one of the most pressing unanswered questions from the first game: what happened to those two evil brothers?

Overall, this game is almost like a piece of art in its scope and imagination, and is a must-have for any Myst fan. In fact, I would recommend it to any fan of puzzle games, although experiencing the prior games is essential to understanding the plot. Combining the two elements of technical and artistic makes this quite a package to behold. Is it perfect? No, most definitely not. But it's close, and the overall magic is overwhelming.

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