Is it the evil opposite of "Pressed for Time"? It's not THAT evil, really. Join time killer Adam Gallant as he guides you toward the great epics and steers you away from the tedium. It's all about time well spent with games that take, well, time.

Puzzle/Adventure Madness:
Myst and 7th Guest (series)

This one's a little late and you will see why in a bit, but we have yet another Time To Kill with 5 games that will take years off your life, literally. Some call it the "Hunt 'n Peck" genre, others call it "PC Adventure" but most will definitely recognize what you mean when you say a game is a "Myst Clone". Today we look at the Myst series which started it all, and a decent horror spin on the genre: 7th Guest.


Released in 1993 with what could be called "Minimalist" advertising, Myst skyrocketed to become one of the best selling games of the decade, and to this day remains in the top five best selling PC games ever.

The premise of Myst is very simple. Mysteriously you, the player, fall into a book and land on the island described in the book. A man named Atrus was in charge of this island along with his wife and two sons, but they all seem noticeably absent. A look in the local library shows many burned and destroyed books, save for a red and blue book that are on prominent display. A look inside each shows a man trapped inside, much like you are on this island. One, named Sirrus, smoothly pleads for you to search out for red pages to help him escape the book. He also mentions the blue book, with his insane brother Achenar, and says not to get the blue pages to help him escape as he is the reason for the predicament. A look in the blue book shows the as-advertised Achenar babbling mindlessly about blue pages and escaping.

This short snippet of a story sets you on a path filled with mind bending puzzles and beautifully rendered lands in a search for pages, escape, and the truth behind the island. Back in 1993, these puzzles seemed impossible to tackle, although with time they don't seem quite so bad. Still, this is a classic that deserves playtime and even the most hardened puzzle gamer will still take a while to finish this one.

Time to kill: 10-50 hours, depending on your speed and patience.


Atrus summons you as you leave Myst Island... seems as if there's more trouble afoot and since you handled Myst so well he wants your help. This time the conflicting force is his father, Ghen, and the age he was banished to for acts against the D'ni code. Even worse, Ghen has the one thing he knows would force Atrus to seek him out: his wife Catherine. You must go forth and explore the massive land of Riven and help Atrus save the age, Catherine, and it's people.

This game was massive for it's time, even in 1997. Taking up 5 CD's with breathtaking visuals and a perfectly ambient soundtrack, Riven was as immersive as it was frustrating. For fans of Myst who are used to finding a clue for a puzzle then finding said puzzle to solve it, Riven threw a curveball. The entire 5CD island was one giant puzzle with smaller puzzles interspersed. When playing, it took a good two hours of exploration before coming across a puzzle that could be solved on sight. After that, however, was a chain reaction which allowed other puzzles to be solved, which set other puzzles available and so on. For the impatient gamer, it could be very frustrating but with enough time given, it's worth it. The plotline and feeling of success of outsmarting Ghen's puzzles make this game a dark sheep in the series, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.

Time To Kill: Depending on how fast you overcome it's molasses-slow start, anywhere from 15 to 45 hours. Some puzzles in this game are absolute killers, but never reach the truly impossible point.

Myst III: Exile

You once again meet up with Atrus, this time in a lovely age Atrus set up as a temporary home. He has people ready and willing to resurrect D'Ni and everything is all set. The new D'Ni even have a new age to call home... at least they do until someone links into Atrus' Den, throws a firebomb at his books and steals the new Age! He taunts Atrus, calling him to follow but Atrus yells for someone to go in his place as he tries to salvage the library. With no recourse, you hop into the linking book the villain left behind and set off to try and save the new D'Ni age.

Using the new (at the time) VR QuickTime technology, this is the first Myst game to offer true 360 degree viewing of any scene in the game. Many puzzles use this new feature to the fullest and it makes for a much more enticing engine. The VRQ technology isn't the only new thing to come into the Myst series, as the player can actually now die in the game. This adds for a bit of extra intrigue and makes the need to save that much more important. The story is as well-written as ever, the puzzles find the right level of difficulty that Riven seemed to cross at times, and the game is visually and audibly stunning. Without a doubt this is the best game in the series, and could be played by a newcomer while still using parts of the previous two games to set the puzzles into motion. If anything, play Myst and Riven so that you have all the knowledge you can for Exile, it's that good.

Time To Kill: A power player could crash through in about 20 hours, but the game gives you so many reasons to explore, it could easily take 60+ to find everything.

The Future of the Myst Series

Another game in the Myst chronicles appeared earlier this year. Myst URU: Ages Beyond Myst. I'm very ambivalent on this game, as it still has that Myst feel but the time, place, and perspective on the game truly skew things.

For one, it takes place on Earth (which if you bother to read the Myst novels does lend some sense to the situation) in present time. Secondly, very little of Atrus, his sons, or Catherine are involved in this game. You're led around by Atrus' heretofore unmentioned daughter of Atrus, and most of the game is in a real-time 3D 3rd person perspective. This is very un-Myst like and makes the game harder to play in a bad way, forcing you to spend time to align your avatar to just the right spot before being able to activate anything.

If anything, URU is more of a sidetrack to the main story, something for Myst fans who need to absorb everything the series has to offer. Myself? I'm waiting for the true sequel in the series and most likely the final installment: Myst IV: Revelations.

Revelations takes the game series back to the first person photo-realistic viewpoints the series is known for, and finally gives the accounts of what happens to Sirrus and Achenar from the first game. Atrus' daughter is also 'introduced' in the game, although I wonder if maybe Myst IV should have been released before URU.

Either way, for now the Myst series is alive and kicking. If you are just now getting into the "Myst Clone" genre, definitely play through the series that started it all. You won't be disappointed.

Next up, a series that has so much to offer and yet somehow doesn't come through: the 7th Guest games.

7th Guest

Looking to hop on the Hunt 'N Peck bandwagon, a small company by the name of Trilobyte came up with the idea to put Myst-style puzzles in a haunted mansion and make it all ten times as hard. They succeeded in their mission, and the result is the 7th Guest.

The premise is laid out in an interesting FMV sequence before the game starts. A vagabond by the name of Henry Stauf after a day of mauling the thieving has a dream about a doll. Obsessed by the dream, he creates an exact replica, which a barkeep notices and wants for his daughter. He gives the man shelter in exchange for the doll. That night he dreams of a puzzle, which he also recreates. In time, Stauf toys and puzzles become a big hit, and every child wants one. Time passes, and some children begin to get sick and die off, all while clutching their Stauf toys. Stauf's last dream is of a giant mansion, full of his own puzzles and secret passages. He then invites six people to the mansion for a small party full of puzzles and promises. But there's more to the party than meets the eye.

7th Guest is a hard game, but more along the lines of Riven-hard than anything truly impossible. The mix of puzzles seem to be taken out of Variety Puzzle magazines and aren't very innovative at times, but there's always a challenge to be had regardless. The plot moves very well, with FMV sequences kicking in right where they should be and without taking up too much time to say what they have to. The game truly does give a creepy feeling and sometimes it did cause me to jump in my seat, exactly what you would want in a game like this.

In the "Myst Clone" genre, this remains just that - a clone. A well made clone, but a clone nonetheless. If you've gone through all of Myst, give this a shot to hold you over until Revelations.

Time To Kill: No more than 15 hours as long as you remember that the Microscope Game isn't necessary to win.

The 11th Hour: Sequel to the 7th Guest

Uh... I didn't beat this game before writing this article. I usually don't do that but it became necessary as this game delayed and delayed what should be a good article.

No, you see I didn't beat this game because I spent twelve straight hours on this WITH THE WALKTHROUGH to the game and didn't get past the first section of the game. With. The. Walkthrough. That is officially too hard a game when the walkthrough doesn't help you one bit.

The plotline to the game, of which I saw, deals with the Stauf Mansion, suddenly the center of a string of murders in the tiny Connecticut town it resides in. The producer of an unsolved Mysteries show goes missing as she researches the manor, and her boyfriend/star of the show holes himself up in his house when the news reaches him. Suddenly, he receives a small PDA-like device with a video on it of a bloody and scared producer/girlfriend. Our hero Carl sets out to save his girl from the specter of Stauf.

Now that I setup the story for you, you can skip the dreadful FMV intro that screams to have Joel and the Bots at the bottom of your screen ridiculing it. The acting wasn't top-notch in the first game but it was tolerable, and occasionally good. This, however, was pure junk.

As for the gameplay, I knew I was going to have trouble with this when it was a puzzle in and of itself to get the damn thing running in Windows. Unlike the predecessor, 11th Hour was ONLY to be used in DOS, so an XP patch had to be made for those wanting to play on new systems. Then came the CPU slowdown script so that I didn't have everything moving at five times the regular pace in-game. With all that setup, finally I could play the game... until I came to the first puzzle and it crashed. I then found a help guide which told me to go into some .ini files inside windows and modify them so that the game could run. Only then could I get things started.

I should have just given up there. The gameplay is essentially two different parts - riddles and puzzles. The puzzles are standard fare, only twelve billion times harder than the 7th Guest or any in the Myst series. I repeat, it took me four hours to beat a puzzle and that was with the express step-by-step process to beat it right in front of me.

The other half of the gameplay involves Stauf sending you cryptic messages through your "GameBook" PDA. Each sentence is a clue to an item that will trigger a FMV sequence on the GameBook showing what happened to your girlfriend. However the clues are based on British Crossword puzzles which are fine if you've ever played them. However, few North American players when given the sentence "Winter Coat worn for a mixer?" will come up with the answer "Tonic Water" (Winter Coat = anagram, worn = used, mixer = beverage, not a party) and be able to find the appropriate item. This makes the already tough puzzles you usually need to solve in order to search a room even that much more frustrating.

Oh, but I forgot something. Half the puzzles in the game aren't even puzzles. They're one on one games against Stauf himself, who is a vicious cheating AI opponent. Six hours on a game of "Mouse Maze" without even a sniff of victory, let alone a win. The AI is disgustingly hard, as is the puzzles, as are the riddles. This game is just hard. Period. Unless you beat all four games mentioned in this article in under thirty minutes including install time, don't even bother with this one.

Time To Kill: To play the game? Who knows, but you can waste at least a couple hours finding interesting ways to destroy and mangle the three discs it came on.

Well that's it this time kiddies, next time look for me to finally work out the top five Epic Sega Genesis games. Really. I mean it this time. Honestly.

Next issue you'll see us hit everyone's favorite blast processing-enhanced system: The Sega Genesis! Revel as I say the word "Shining" more than I care to. Until then, get up and stretch once in a while. It's healthy for you.

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