By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
If you were one of the millions of computer gamers who went gaga over "Myst," 1993's best-selling CD-ROM adventure game, you'll feel right at home with this stunning-yet-similar sequel.
"Myst III: Exile" is the second sequel to "Myst," following 1997's equally impressive "Riven."
The first two titles have sold a whopping 10 million units and have spawned countless fiction novels and a sizeable online community of fan-based Web sites.
For the uninitiated, the "Myst" games are best described as point-and-click adventures, where players must use the mouse to navigate a surreal island and through various "ages," all the while solving tough brain teasers to advance and complete the game. Puzzles vary from pulling the right levers and gears to reading notes and applying the right clues to manipulating the environment to bypass a dead end.
Slow, but pretty, digital journey
Because of its strong emphasis on rich graphics, the "Myst" series has been likened to an interactive coffee table book; a slow-paced digital journey through pretty pictures.
But don't be fooled. As with its predecessors, the conundrums can get quite tricky in "Myst III: Exile," especially late in the game in the Edanna Nature Age and Narayan: Age of Balance. Fortunately, the puzzles do seem considerably easier than those tricky riddles from "Riven."
"Myst III: Exile" begins roughly 10 years after "Riven" ends. Atrus and Catherine, the husband and wife whom players rescued in the first two games, have re-established contact with the lost D'ni civilization.
At the start of the game, players visit Atrus in his study when all of a sudden a villain from another age appears, seeking revenge for the destruction of his own world (Altrus' sons, Sirrus and Achenar, are allegedly responsible). He steals Altrus' magic book, sets the place afire and jumps back into his age. You, of course, follow to retrieve the precious journal. And so the adventure begins.
Lifelike 3-D graphics
Graphically, the game enjoys a new 3-D engine so players can spin around in a full, 360-degree view.
And unlike the games in the past, there seems to be more "life" in these worlds, with more interaction with people from D'ni (real actors, in fact), plus birds now fly around, water ripples and so forth.
There are five ages to explore in "Myst III: Exile," each with a distinctive visual style and puzzle type.
The moody music in the game is equally as impressive; fans of the series will certainly be pleased with this new-age soundtrack.
If you are looking for a challenging and atmospheric brainteaser that places an emphasis on puzzles rather than reflexes, then this four-disc set is a good bet.