Game Reviews

Riven: The Sequel to Myst

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| Riven
Riven: The Sequel to Myst
| Riven

Like an aging heavyweight boxer striding haughtily into the ring, Riven has hit iPhone and iPod touch with its gargantuan 1GB download size.

Yet despite its record-breaking digital girth, this point-and-click adventure is resolutely old-school; more George Forman than David Haye, if you will.

As the title so kindly reminds you, this is the sequel to the insanely popular surrealistic romp Myst, and was originally delivered to PC on five compact discs in 1997 – which goes some way to explaining why this iPhone port is so chunky.

Big daddy

Despite the eye-watering download demands (make sure you purchase via wi-fi or side load it from a computer, unless you’re on very friendly terms with your mobile network provider), Riven plays like a relic from a bygone era too.

Environments are illustrated using static screens that fade into one another like a PowerPoint business presentation.

Regardless of the rather antiquated transitions, though, these decade-old scenes retain their atmospheric quality, boasting striking landscapes that are both convincing and other-worldly at the same time.

These captivating images are also ably supported by some truly brilliant sound design. It’s unfair to divide the aural package into sounds and music because everything blends effortlessly into one ambient whole, adding immeasurably to the overall experience.

Powerful puzzling

When you strip away the presentation, Riven – like its predecessor – is a puzzle game at heart. To progress, you have to overcome various logic challenges, some of which require you to obtain information – sequences and codes, for example – from different locations.

Interacting with each scene is relatively painless thanks to intuitive touch control; you flick switches, pull levers and push buttons using your finger. Moving between scenes is done either via taps or swipes.

The only fly in the ointment is the double-tap zoom function, which allows you to investigate areas of the screen in higher detail. It’s too easy to accidentally zoom in when you actually intend to interact with an object. And, to be brutally honest, the increased magnification only serves to show up just how much each scene has been compressed in order to cram it all into the 1GB file size.

Touch me up

As for its tricky gameplay, thankfully there's an integrated hint guide and hot spots to help you progress. The ability to bookmark certain scenes is a bonus when it comes to solving puzzles too, but you might need a pen and paper handy to overcome some of the trickier conundrums.

Still, Riven doesn't feel as definitive as other remastered adventures on iPhone and iPod touch. While the controls demonstrate an understanding of the devices, the inability to capitalise on the massive file size for a richer, higher resolution presentation is stunning in itself.

Yet what Riven lacks in action, cutting-edge graphics and immediate appeal, it makes up for with a gripping plot and fiendishly captivating brain-teasers.

Riven: The Sequel to Myst

Although this port does little to spruce up a decade-old adventure, enough quality shines through to make Riven a worthwhile play
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.