If you remember the original Mysterious Journey, chances are you’re cringing at the sheer mention of the title. The original game was highly difficult, had a storyline so bad that it killed any of its fun adventure aspects and featured such subpar graphics that nothing could end up saving the game from mediocrity. Of course, if you remember that game, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that Mysterious Journey 2 has come a very long way and offers a pretty decent puzzle-solving experience.
You are dropped into the game as the amnesia-suffering Sen, who you soon find out has destroyed an entire planet with the exception of one small valley. Having awakened from cryo-sleep after a 200-year nap, you find out via an informational hologram that the not-so-forgiving survivors have sentenced you to death. As luck would have it, the space station on which you awoke is due to crash-land on the planet in 16 days, but before you can find out more details, the hologram is destroyed by an unseen entity. Thus begins your puzzle-solving search for clues about Sen’s past, and this time around, the story is great.
With this backdrop, you’ve probably already surmised that the gameplay focuses on solving puzzles. Fortunately, the difficulty has been brought down a few notches since the original Mysterious Journey, thus making it much more accessible to the average gamer. The puzzles for the most part are logic-based; you won’t find yourself searching countless areas of the 3D world to gather information. Instead, you can pretty much stay where you are until the puzzle is solved. Just make sure to have a pen and paper handy, as some of the puzzles are far easier with those at your disposal.
But to say some puzzles are easier with pen and paper is not to say you’ll be coasting through the first few mind-benders. Instead, the developers made the ingenious move of varying the puzzle difficulty rather than presenting them in a linear, easy-to-hard order. It’s almost as if gamers are rewarded for solving a hard puzzle by a couple of easier ones to follow.
If this sounds an awful lot like the Myst series, that’s because Mysterious Journey 2 is actually quite similar. It’s played in the first person. It immerses you in a rich and “living” world with not one sign of linearity. It’s controlled with a keyboard and mouse. And it frees you to roam without restrictions in movement or view.
Since the games are so similar, though, Myst fans will be immediately familiar with the gameplay and have no problem breezing through Mysterious Journey 2, even though the puzzles are quite unique. After all, it still boils down to puzzle-solving, so cerebral gamers will find a nice respite from the shooters’ mentality. The downer to this genre, though, is that once you solve a puzzle, the challenge of the game is gone, so a single play-through is probably sufficient.
That is, of course, unless you want to poke around the alien environments a bit more, because the graphics in Mysterious Journey 2 are simply astounding. The environments are richly detailed, and the scenery is brilliantly designed, with every little detail in the game world given a breath of air. The terra firma is brought to life by excellent lighting and shadows, and the sky is absolutely mesmerizing to look at. Honestly, you will probably find yourself spending more time gawking at your surroundings than staying on task to uncover your lost memories.
Couple these astounding in-game graphics with fantastic cutscenes that bring the story together nicely, and you’ve got an incredible graphical feast. The cutscenes also are the key ingredient to unfolding the story, which simply sweetens the deal.
The only problem graphically is that unless your PC is completely up-to-date, you may find yourself in the middle of Speed Bump City. Even with a 2.53 GHz CPU and 64 MB video card, I at times experienced the occasional graphical snafu.
Since audio plays a big part in some of the puzzles, you’ll also want to be sure you have a good set of speakers – and a good ear. If you don’t have either, you may find yourself frustrated at times. Seriously, in a game where the sound of footsteps can help guide you out of a fog-infested area, you want to be able to hear the smallest of audio details.
The environmental sounds themselves are very ambient, offering super-clear, crisp and directionally accurate clarity, while the soundtrack plays softly in the backdrop and sets the mood brilliantly.
Put all these pieces together, and you have an outstanding sequel that rescues the franchise from mediocrity. Mysterious Journey 2 offers an excellent story backed-up by excellent audio and visuals. The appeal of this game, in fact, is simply determined by your enjoyment of puzzle-solving. If you don’t, then this may not be the game that consumes your leisure time. But then again, if you read this review, you must be interested. Rest assured, if you like puzzles, you will love this game.
- Gameplay: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Sound: 8.5
- Replay: 4
- Overall: 8.7
- A must-have for puzzle fans. A pass-now for all others.
— Sylvia Gallardo