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Riven: The Sequel To Myst
developed by
Cyan
published by
Red Orb Entertainment
for
Power Mac


January 9, 1998

Let's get something straight off the top. I never played Myst when it came out. But this time around I had to see what all the hype was about.

My mother always said that patience is a virtue and after playing Riven I've decided that I don't have enough of it. Luckily I'm full of other virtues, such as perseverance and humility. Not enough perseverance either as it turns out, I must confess that I went to a hint site in a fit of frustration part way through the game. I know, I know, it's considered a complete sacrilege to those who are Myst and Riven purists. Humility I have in spades as I can freely admit that I found Riven to be tough and, to be honest, not really my kind of game.

The story continues on where Myst concluded and although it stands alone, I think having the Myst background is an advantage. You have been sent to Riven by Altus to capture Ghen in a prison book (which is half of a linking book; no way out). But first you have to find him. Altus' wife, Catherine, is also trapped in Riven. Oh, and Riven itself is suffering from impending disintegration.

There are five CDs full of Riven and the switching that was necessary was irritating to say the least. There's nothing you can do about it but grin and bear it (but I did want to lodge a complaint for the record). The game is fairly non linear, which I greatly appreciated. A lot of the landscape is open for you to freely explore in whichever order you prefer. Of course, there are some areas that are off limits until you solve the appropriate puzzles.

In the style of Myst, the world of Riven is revealed to you through still, first person perspective, pictures (But there's no waiting for these babies to load, it's almost instantaneous. Instead of click, wait, click, wait it's just click, click, click.). There are many more animations in Riven than in Myst. I love the way the startled sea creatures slide into the water when you interrupt them sunning themselves. My favorite animations, though, would have to be the first person perspective transportation rides; wild roller-coaster fun through the air, under the water, and through the mountains.

Riven is a very beautiful world. The artists and designers at Cyan deserve the heaps of praise they've been getting. Riven is a world of natural beauty (forests, ocean, etc) combined with the archaic looking, yet curiously advanced, hydraulics and mechanics of rusting metal construction, and steam and water power. The water effects are stunning, the lighting sensational. And exploring is just so gratifying when the stuff you find is so cool. The submarine transport system probably tops my list as the coolest part of the game.

The environments are complex and complete. Riven is perfectly self contained and therefore successfully exists as a destination of the imagination. Some of the game is very dark and the set-up process has you set your monitor brightness to certain specifications that I found just too dark for certain areas of the game. Don't be afraid to adjust throughout the game.

Cyan requests that you either use headphones or a good set of speakers when you play their game. And I must admit that the sound effects play an integral part of the game, both in creating atmosphere and in helping you to solve puzzles (Flipped switches sometimes make telling noises.). The hum of bugs in the forest, the clank of metal doors, the creak of wooden walkways, and the rush of wind are but a sampling of the excellent sound work on these discs. There is a definite lack of music, though. Now and then there are a few swelling notes but nothing that I would call a soundtrack.

So, how does she play captain? Well.... it's slow, as I expected. And you can count on some frustrating moments (or even hours). But for this type of point and click game, Riven is the best I've ever played. The game unravels itself wisely, so you're seeing plenty of new stuff as you move through (and there's plenty to see on these lush islands). The backtracking required is not excessive if you're observant the first time through. The puzzles are challenging and almost everything you can closely examine or manipulate has significance. You may want to make notes to help you remember important things. In some cases , though, notes (or a even a photographic memory) won't help you as you attempt to determine which switches have which consequences. You'll have to try something and look for results, and then try something else and look for results again. The puzzles mainly involve switches, levers, and buttons, but numbers (those would be D'Nai numbers) and colours also come into play.

Remember, this type of gaming isn't for everyone. You need to play slow. If you go dashing around without examining everything closely you'll never get anywhere. You need to be patient. Starting to play Riven is like starting a hugely thick book, to get to the end will require time and dedication to the story.

I'm not sure why I don't like this type of game more than I do. I find Riven aesthetically pleasing, the story piques my interest, I appreciate the cerebral nature of the challenges and find solving them rewarding, but I get bogged down with the slowness of it all. There is no edge of your seat thrills 'n chills, no real tension, no sense of urgency, or of dire consequences for mistakes or non-commitment. I guess I find it too passive. The structure of this type of game makes me feel isolated and cold. There is little or no character interaction, and my emotions aren't roused whatsoever. Riven fulfills the puzzle solving, machine side of my brain, and treats my eyes and ears to an incredible feast, but it leaves me unexplainably vacant. Maybe I'm asking too much.

Riven is clever. Riven is beautiful. Riven is a lot like Myst.

Riven: The Sequel To Myst ............................ 8.5 out of 10

Bonnie James

Thought Drop

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