Myst III, the sequel to what is one of the most popular videogames of all times, has just been released, and the game is a delight for those of you who like puzzles, great graphics and lots of slow-paced meandering.
The game is set approximately 10 years after the previous effort in the series (the popular but flawed Riven) and the hero Atrus and his wife Catherine have found a nice place to settle down and finally raise a family. However, as you'd expect, before long the peace is shattered as a ghost from Atrus's past comes back to ruin the scene.
The game begins as a mysterious figure steals a special tome. The importance of this book is lost on you at this point, but you know one thing - you must get the book back.
So off you go, following this character, hoping that the task is not going to be too arduous. Of course, the truth is your quest is just beginning.
For those of you not familiar with the series, Myst III is very similar to the previous efforts in that you have to visit a number of artfully drawn worlds and solve a variety of increasingly difficult logical puzzles. There are no monsters to shoot, no characters to slay with your sword, and the gameplay can be enjoyed at a contemplatively relaxed pace as you fiddle with the conundrums on offer.
The game world is also a quiet place, as you see only three people during your travels. Most of the interaction revolves around pushing moving objects and working the many weird tools in the various worlds you visit.
Exile takes you through five different worlds, known as 'ages' in the world of Myst. Each age has its own unique theme and groups of puzzles, and once you pass through an age you are given a special treat - a 'ride' or animation - as you unlock the main puzzle in the age. This works to keep you keen on completing an age so you can see the special bit at the end.
Visually, the places you go to in Myst III are delightful if a tad lacking in the animation department. The game features some impressive creative artwork and the environment is much more dynamic than the stills slideshow of the original Myst. For a start, you can pan your viewpoint in any direction you choose, making it easier for you to believe that you are visiting a real place. There are also some really cool weather and lighting effects, and the water surrounding the islands that you visit isn't a static image of water, but instead gently laps against the shore.
The interface is very simple, and even if you haven't used a PC before you will find yourself competently controlling the game within minutes. You basically click on an area to move there and the context sensitive mouse cursor changes to indicate any special options that might be associated with a place or object.
This accessibility is something which probably impressed those of you who enjoyed the original game, and the feel is the same here. That said, more experienced digital adventurers might feel fairly limited in terms of what they can do. Certainly, lots of objects which you reasonably expect to be able to control or pick up are little more than window dressing. This is an unfortunate byproduct of Myst III's simplicity.
Myst III isn't the sort of game a hard-core player will enjoy, but it is fun, especially if you like intriguing places, good static visuals and puzzles.
Graphics: Pretty, but there could have been more animation.
Sound: Great atmospheric audio.
Control: Simple, but it might have been better if you could do more.
Fun Factor: Instantly enjoyable as long as you are a patient type.
Publisher: Ubi Soft