The Lost City plays like your fondest memories of Myst
When CD-ROM’s came out in the early 90’s, developers had actual space for data, so they could spend time on making a game look really cool. It’s largely why Myst was so mind-blowingly successful. It’s ironic really, since I’d wager most people that bought/played Myst really didn’t like it. The Lost City definitely takes a large dose of inspiration from that seminal game, so could it suffer the same fate?
With Myst, buried in the gorgeous visuals and sense of adventure were tough puzzles with seemingly nonsensical solutions and no hint system to speak of. Familiar territory for legit gamers, but not really for some family just trying to show off what their new PC was capable of. While millions of Myst CD’s were sold, I’d bet very few of their owners actually completed the game.
The Lost City feels like an excellent call-back to that era of PC gaming, but makes numerous improvements to the formula that not only result in a much better experience, but one that I can’t really find fault with. It’s like taking what you see in your past when you look through the lens of nostalgia, and bringing all of the good memories back into present day while leaving the bad stuff behind.
The Lost City is all about exploring a lush lost island, solving various puzzles, and grabbing items to aid in solving said puzzles. Doing so allows you to move further and further into the island all in the hope of restoring some “balance” that your grandmother has somehow knocked off-kilter.
Where The Lost City truly excels is in the sense of atmosphere and adventure it imparts on the player. The various pieces of the island are rife with interesting elements, like weird tree houses or abandoned stone buildings. To make everything even more ethereal and “strange” you’re able to sometimes change the seasons on the island, which makes everything change and shift a bit. One minute everything is lush and green and the next barren and brown. It’s really neat.
The different locations are barely animated, sometimes not at all, though those small touches go a long way into helping suspend disbelief and to think this wayward island is real. There were times when I was less interested in solving puzzles than I was in looking around. It’s all just very gorgeous and interesting to look at.
Luckily after I was done having fun wandering, I never really needed to stumble around trying to find my way back to a particular puzzle since the game includes a really well done map. Small thumbnails are placed in a general layout with lines connecting each scene, so it’s super easy to see that I need to move back one and over three, for example, to get where I want to be. This is one area where I’m glad The Lost City isn’t like Myst, which would’ve been content to just let you knock around until finding what you want by accident.
There are a few other ways that The Lost City feels a little more updated and grown-up when compared to Myst. In addition to the more than welcome map, there’s also a journal that will collect little nuggets of information that could be needed in later puzzles, as well as a hint system. Some might scoff at its inclusion and I avoided using it, but I like that it’s there for people that might get frustrated. Better for them to have a place to look and find a solution than to put down the game and never play it again.
The only downside to the game really is that trying to pick out the details of the various locales on the small iPhone screen might be a bit tough. I’d like to be able to recommend playing it on an iPad to both solve that problem and get full enjoyment from how great the graphics look, but for some reason Fire Maple Games seems to be content with keeping this on a smaller screen.
Playing The Lost City really does take me back to the days of playing a game like Myst on my PC. The game gives you tiny threads of story, but really relies on the ambiance and strange compelling puzzles to pull you along. It largely works, though if you’re the kind of person that requires action or story to pull you along you’ll probably be left disappointed. For me, I relished my time on that weird island, and was sad when it was over and I had to come back to reality.