iPad Game Review: Riven: The Sequel to Myst Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Riven is a re-creation of the classic point-and-click adventure game from the nineties. It is important to note that it is not a reimagining or update like RealMyst; this is the original game in all its static image glory.
Riven is a puzzle-oriented adventure game that plops you down in a surreal and abandoned world. You are given no instructions, no objective, and no map. The point of the game is to explore the world and solve the puzzles that are presented to you; some of which are fiendishly clever. In the late 1990's when Riven was originally released, it was a blockbuster A-list title, and, based on the App Store reviews, still commands a sizeable following. Unfortunately, if you never had a chance to play and fall in love with the original PC version, you are likely to be left scratching your head, wondering what all the fuss is about.
Navigation is accomplished by tapping and swiping and transitions are quite responsive. Unfortunately, that's all they are; transitions. Your world is not animated except for the occasional on-screen asset, and even that is accomplished by superimposing a small movie over the top of the still image to give the appearance of animation. When you move from location to location, you are treated to a series of static images rather than the smooth 3D movement that we are so used to today. It's important to note at this point that this limitation is not the result of poor game design or lazy programming. When Riven was first released, this is all that computers were capable of doing, and because Riven for iPad is not a reimagining or reboot like RealMyst was to Myst, what you are seeing is the actual game as it played 15ish years ago.
Expecting more out of it simply because one and a half decades have passed is like watching an old Charlie Chaplin movie on Blu Ray and expecting it to now be in full color with sound. Apologetics aside, Riven for iPad is not for everybody. If you aren't nostalgic for the original or a slave to beauty, Riven will reward you with deep and engaging gameplay. If your sensibilities are more modern, however, you may never be able to fully immerse yourself in the game world; something that absolutely must happen if you are to enjoy it.
I'm aware of the fact that I spent a lot of time covering the visuals of Riven in the Gameplay section. However, with a game like this where the gameplay and graphics are so intertwined, that was unavoidable, at least for me. I will now take a moment to explore this topic a bit further, and unfortunately, it's more bad news. Part of Riven's charm, and the reason that an adventure game with only rudimentary animation was so successful, was because the locations were so darn beautiful. Unfortunately, the original PC assets were rendered at a significantly lower resolution than what is used today, and that "I can't wait to see what the next location looks like" feeling just isn't there when everything looks so low-rez and muddy. Worse still, the movie clips that serve to animate some of the images are even lower resolution than the images themselves. The result is a distracting and disappointing gaming experience.
The ambient sounds and in-game music are about the only things that hold up to today's multimedia standards. In a game like Riven that attempts to pull you completely in, this was very welcome, indeed.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
There are no IAPs in Riven.
Riven for iPad is a re-issuing of a gaming masterpiece from the early days of multimedia gaming. If you played the original PC version and want to recapture that gaming experience on your iPad, you will not be disappointed. If you are modern gamer, however, who has grown accustomed to modern visuals and effects, tread cautiously because Riven is completely faithful to the original in every way.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 2 - If you're not a fan of the original, the muddy and static visuals are likely to turn you off. Sound: - 4.5 - The sounds and music hold up nicely, and go a long way toward pulling you into the game. Controls: - 3 - Rudimentary tap and swipe controls get the job done but will feel hostile to those unfamiliar with the original. Gameplay: - 5 - A fantastic and deep adventure game awaits those who aren't prejudiced by the game's lack of modern flair.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Draw a map or you will get lost, and take copious notes. Get used to swiping to turn rather than tapping the edge of the screen to avoid moving in an unexpected direction. Ponder, experiment, and most of all, take your time. Riven is not a game to rush through.