Game review: Myst for iPhone

So while fiddling around with the iPad I picked up for testing, I thought “hey self, this would be a great platform for an exploration/adventure game like the classic 1993 CD-ROM game Myst!”

To my great pleasure, i discovered that Cyan released a iPhone/iPod Touch version of the original Myst last year, which also runs quite nicely on the newer iPad.

The game features a richly detailed CG-rendered environment (all pre-rendered graphics thanks to 1993’s paltry CPU horsepower), where you wander around trying to piece together the history of a family power struggle that has trapped the denizens of a world where writing can literally create new universes.

Back in the 90s, the graphics, videos, and music filled an entire CD to the brim; the iPhone version weighs in at a similar 540 megabytes or so, which by today’s standards is a reasonable download. :)

The still graphics have been slightly rescaled from the Mac SE-friendly 512×384 or so down to 480×320, but appear to be from true color originals rather than the dithered 256-color versions of yore. Some screens have been further zoomed in to make small touch targets more accessible, but I still find it a bit awkward on an iPhone.

In pixel-doubled mode on the iPad, everything looks great and navigating by touch is a joy; the cleaner true color images outweigh the slight resolution loss for me, and it’s just the right size to go pushing things on.

My one big wish might be for an integrated note-taking feature. (Some of the later games in the series actually added a screen-shot feature, presented in-game as a camera!) On a 1990s desktop computer I could easily keep my notes on paper, but a portable tablet cries out for taking the notes on the tablet too, so they’re with me whenever I feel like poking at the game for a few minutes. Fortunately the game is great about saving and restoring state automatically, and starts up in just a couple seconds, so switching between the game and Notes or Photos isn’t too unpleasant. (Better multitasking on the system could help here too by keeping state live while you’re away in your notes.)

I would really love to see Myst’s sequels brought to tablets like the iPad natively; the higher-resolution graphics in Riven would look *fantastic*, and the iPad should have enough horsepower to handle the fancier video and panoramic effects in Mysts III and IV. I still need to finish IV and play V though… ;)

Probably the biggest obstacle to the later games is storage space. Pre-rendering graphics from every possible view position and direction let them have visuals years ahead of their time, but at a huge cost in disk space. Riven should be tractable, but full downloads could run many gigabytes for the later games, which spanned multiple DVDs!


  • Game:Myst for iPhone
  • Genre: graphical adventure/exploration/puzzle
  • Platform: iPhone OS (low resolution)
  • Cost: $4.99
  • Awesome factor: pretty awesome
  • Nostalgia factor: pretty big but not overwhelming the awesome
  • Recommend? yes!

Note: typing html tags manually on the iPad keyboard is pretty awful, as letters, slash, and angle brackets are all on different screens. I’d really appreciate working rich text editing in Mobile Safari!