realMyst opens with you discovering a book under a starlit sky, prodding a suspiciously video-like picture on the last page, and being rudely whisked away to a seemingly deserted island world.
Thanks, then, to everyone who said we should “read more”.
You awake on a dock, next to a sunken ship, with absolutely no idea what to do next – and realMyst isn’t helping.
That’s because this is decidedly old-school gaming, a port of a remake of PC adventure Myst, which smashed out people’s brains way back in the mid-1990s. Your only option is to start poking around and see what you discover.
Unlike the original Myst, which was effectively a slideshow of pre-rendered scenes, realMyst has a measure of open-world movement. You drag around the screen to look, hold down to move, double-tap-hold to run, and two-finger tap to walk backwards.
When you need to interact with an object, shove your face right next to it and the game usually provides controls, so you can do battle with its puzzles.
And ‘battle’ is the right word. To say realMyst is obtuse is putting it mildly. If you’ve grown lazy on a diet of simplistic mobile games that won’t quit with the hand-holding, realMyst is likely to leave you whimpering. Although you can’t die at any point, you can feel properly stranded when ambling about, none the wiser regarding what to do next.
Give us a clue
Armed with a serious amount of patience, a keen eye, and a pen and notepad, you should at least be able to make some inroads into realMyst’s strange world.
You’ll pick up on tiny clues (hint: write down everything that contains diagrams, letters and numbers, just in case), discover snatches of plot to do with people trapped in books, and feel like a genius on solving something. Then you’ll prod another ‘linking book’, and abruptly find yourself dumped on another miniature world, with new challenges to deal with.
For the most part, the smart visuals in this remake – while not as dynamic nor as pretty as newer versions on PC – make for a unique, engaging world to explore; but there are structural issues with the game (far too much backtracking) and technical niggles with this particular port.
When exploring, frequent (if very short) loading pauses knock the immersion, and there were autosave issues that nuked progress during testing. For your own sanity, manually bookmark your place frequently.
Ultimately, though, reviewing any flavour of Myst for Android is a bit like reviewing Pac-Man. The series has so much history and baggage, it’s tough to experience without a certain amount of preconceptions. Certainly, even this more free-form take has a tendency to feel obtuse and clunky compared to more modern fare.
The Room, for example, feels comparatively far more modern, focussed and intense, to the point you might be glued to your device until the conclusion. realMyst just doesn’t have that same pull.
And yet for all this, it does still provide a unique world that transfers well to Android, and offers plenty of value to newcomers looking for a tough puzzle challenge – and old PC gamers wanting to relive an old favourite, dressed in snazzy new clothes.