By Nimish Dubey
Travelling and videogames do not generally go together. The former is considered for those who love the great outdoors, the latter for couch potatoes. And yet there is a whole genre of gaming that is designed for those who like to roam around and see places – the adventure genre. And if there is one game that we really think was tailormade for travellers, it is the classic Myst series.
The reason for our picking Myst is simple – it is one of the few games we have seen that is simply based on travelling. The game starts by placing you on a strange island surrounded by water. There are a few houses on the island, a well with a boat inside it, what seems to be an airship docked to one side, a clocktower on an island and an incredibly tall tree that seems to have a lift inside. Oh, and there is no one around – you are the only human being out there, although you do run across two gentlemen who seem to be imprisoned inside books (well, this IS a videogame). The game is played entirely from first person perspective so you can see everything around you but not yourself.
A bit of paper on the lawn tells you that something is amiss and you have to break a code to find out more. Of course, to break the code you will need to roam around the island. And that is the essence of the game – you need to explore the island, get clues (and they are not going to be lying around idly – you will need to spot them and see where they can be used) and then use them to find your way not just off the island but also travel to other worlds, as you try to set things right.
Travelling itself is fascinating – you travel to a world by opening special books, looking at scenes of a different land and then touching the picture. And the worlds you go to are nothing short of staggering in terms of visual beauty – there will be strange ships, islands full of pathways, houses that revolve on an axis. And throughout all this, you will have absolutely no one for company – just you and your wits. There are no guns to fire, no enemies to find, just a lot (and we mean a LOT) of walking around, exploring nooks and crannies in the hope of unlocking the mystery that put you on the first island.
And to make sure that nothing interferes with your digital travels, the gameplay is incredibly simple. Most of the time you will be just looking around using your mouse – and you can look around yourself fully irrespective of where you are . There are no complex keystrokes or commands to remember – it is just you and what lies in front of you. The music score is unobtrusive and serves as the perfect backdrop for your travels (it was later sold as a separate soundtrack album, so soothing was it to many users!). And there are hours and hours of gameplay in here, as you go from island to island, trying to clear all the questions in your head. And this is not a new game but one that was released more than a decade ago and can run on just about any computer today – there are even versions available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, for those who want to play on the move.
It can all be very compelling or utterly boring, depending on how patient you are. If you are the type that likes to visit new lands and walk around, drinking in new sights and sounds, but are confined to a single place for a while, we would suggest buying Myst and playing it. It is as close as you can get to virtual travel. And with a terrific storyline to boot. And once you are through with it, well, you can move on to its sequels – there are more than half a dozen games in the series, which incidentally is the highest-selling adventure game of all time!
And do join us for a coffee at the Kunzum Travel Cafe in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, India.