Posted by Martin Watts
Porting games has always been common practice for most third-party companies. It goes without saying, but it makes good business sense for a game publisher to enable its software to reach as wide an audience as possible. And it's something that most of us don't have a problem with; if a company makes it easier for us to play its games then that can only be a good thing, right?
In most instances, the answer is yes. However, there is a worrying trend as of late, one in which many publishers are porting old titles to newer systems and devices and making a dog's dinner of it in the process. As a consumer, what you see is the return of a classic game and one which you think you're going to love playing through all over again, albeit on newer, much shinier hardware.
But then you play it, and you're taken aback: this isn't as good as you remember! Nostalgia has a habit of masking certain imperfections, but it's fine because you expect the developer to optimise the game for the hardware on which it's now running. However, when you take a look at the screen and notice that the developer didn't bother to improve the visuals — making it a horrible blurry mess when experienced on today's advanced systems — you start to think that something is up. You then try using the new control system, but it's just so poorly implemented and doesn't offer anywhere near the same level of accuracy as the original version did all those years ago. After encountering an increasing number of issues, you gradually come to the realisation that the publisher wasn't looking to pay tribute when porting across this classic title you once cherished so much, but rather it was simply trying to play on your nostalgia and make a quick buck in the process.
Sadly, Myst for the 3DS sits all too neatly within this horrid, seemingly ever expanding sub-category of ported games. Revered by game critics across the world in 1993 - not to mention the best-selling PC game for the nine years that followed - Myst's impressive legacy has now been desecrated with this absolute abomination of a port. Muddy, low-resolution graphics, crackly audio and absurdly poor controls all mar what was once a truly superb game. It's frustrating because underneath all the sloppy visuals and mechanics there's still a great gameplay experience — the problem is that all the bad stuff prevents you from ever enjoying it.
Myst follows the journey of the Stranger, an anonymous person who uses a magical book to travel to a mysterious island. The player must explore the island from a first-person perspective, searching for clues and working out what to do next. It's a game that would appeal to you if you appreciate a good challenge; there isn't a hint system that tells you what to do next, and the puzzles can be deviously hard at times. However, this is practically irrelevant when you factor in how poorly made this port is, and the biggest offender here is the presentation. When porting it across, it's clear that the developer made absolutely no effort to optimise the game for the 3DS screen. It's a pixelated mess that ruins its once vibrant and mysterious locations, and it's most certainly not representative of what the 3DS can do. In fact, it doesn't even use the 3D feature, again proving how little has been done with this port.
Myst is quite a text-heavy game, and you have to read a lot of the written material you come during your adventure if you want to learn more about the plot. However, the text is practically illegible in this version as a result of the terrible screen resolution — even when using the zoom feature it's incredibly difficult to make out most words. It's laborious and begs the question whether anyone bothered to quality check the game before release. Audio logs are another feature you need to rely on to source your clues and back-story information, but these are similarly incomprehensible and noticeably poor in quality.
To make matters worse, the control setup is just plain awful. Being the graphic adventure game that it is, Myst requires lots of pointing and clicking; a task perfectly suited to the 3DS' touchscreen. However, all of this input actually takes place on the top screen, meaning that you must use the circle pad to move a cursor round. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that the cursor is permanently set to auto-centre. Precision is rarely required when travelling around, but trying to hit a specific button or switch (most of which are very small) is unnecessarily awkward. Choosing to use the top screen would've made more sense if the 3D effect was in use, but it isn't. Regardless, sacrificing the most ideal control setup in favour of the top screen is nothing but a poor design decision.
All of these issues act as severe obstacles to your overall enjoyment. The premise — as we already know from the original game — is conceptually brilliant. However, it's just incredibly hard to immerse yourself in the game's world when it looks, sounds and plays as badly as this. The fact that the original 1993 game — which just to give you a contemporary perspective was partly responsible for boosting sales of the now-archaic CD-ROM format — plays better than this port says it all really.
Myst is quite simply an unplayable mess. It was a great game in its day and there's no denying that it is still highly entertaining. However, this 3DS port is diabolically poor in terms of quality, and absolutely no effort has gone into optimising it for the system. The dreadful visuals, bafflingly low screen resolution and awful control setup ruin what could have quite easily been an enjoyable handheld gameplay experience. If there's just one thing at which this particular version of Myst succeeds, it's serving as a prime example of what not to do when porting a classic game to a modern system.