Thursday, July 22, 2021

Game 83: Mysterium

Publisher:Asmik Ace
Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Mysterium is one bizarre game. Made by the dude who would go onto Sim Farm, and published by a Japanese publisher, Mysterium is a fantasy, non-RPG Dungeon Master-clone. Not having finished Dungeon Master is becoming an increasing liability on this blog. The central concept of performing alchemic rituals to change items forms is unusual, but not unique. It possesses that Macintosh charm, undoubtedly due to being B&W, yet suffers from the same problem most Macintosh games had, players were desperate for anything.

The story is, someone got lost and you have to find them inside a dungeon, and defeat a horrible monster. Not brilliant, but let's be real and place this in the category of Dungeon Master-clone. Its another title like Bram Stoker's Dracula, except that game was fun and this game was not. The reason is that this game requires trial and error, it does so to extend its length. I beat it in around 3 hours, but if I wasn't using save states, especially to leave off in a session, the game would have taken at least twice that. There's no in-game save. I don't know how much this cost back in the day, but looking up current Ebay prices and I get 15$ at the minimum to 1500$. I don't often offer financial advice here, but I would aim to be a seller in this situation.
Why wouldn't I be? The game's gimmick is alchemic magic. You drop an item into one of four cauldrons, and you get a different item. Each level until the last is dedicated to one element. Each item belongs to one element, and has a stable or unstable status. Every item has a consistent reaction to a cauldron, from turning into a different item, turning into a key (that can also be put into a cauldron) to spawning a monster that drops an item. Its interesting, but its just so trial-and-errory. You don't really know what you're going to get and you don't know right away that items are only destroyed if you use them. Even if an item is useless, you can still transform it into something useful. Thus an item is only truly useless if it doesn't offer any keys you need, health or light items.
But the most interesting gimmick in the world would still be bad if the rest of the game is bad, and Mysterium's gimmick isn't the most interesting. Combat in this game isn't fun. You have an invisible crosshair, you shoot at this section, and if an enemy is shooting at you in that location, you'll be hit. So you have to dodge, using a special aim mode. This basically comes out to side-stepping with no more real strategy to it than that. This gets pretty close to beating some of the 3D Monster Maze clones I've played in terms of being ass to shoot things. In addition to combat, you also have torches, which prevent things from going dark, but gradually run out. I don't really know if it affects much, as far as it ran down the screen just turned pale, but not truly dark.
I say Dungeon Master-clone, but in those you have things to distinguish navigation better. Here the only distinguishing features are those you can actually do something with. This doesn't really help the situation much. The game is just plain painful to look at. I feel like most of the game's running time I was nursing a headache. What's really unforgivable, however, is the game's use of spinners. Which if you don't know, are the things in Dungeon Master that turn you without telling you. They're technically earlier. These were also in Dracula, but there it was more of a puzzle. The levels are mostly featureless, but besides that, you have an arrow at the top of your screen. Like so many other things in this game, its trying to be clever, but its just not capable of that.
Many different weapons, but they all act the same way. 0/10

Generic enemies, distinguished only in the most basic ways. Some were cool-looking, but were ultimately the same as the others. 1/10


For the majority of the game, each level is a featureless maze. Far too many require busywork backtracking. But the last, while not any better in those departments, does offer something clever. 1/10

Player Agency:
The aiming system is completely pointless, and keys seem to stick. The game wants to do more than it really can with four buttons, and its really hampered by that. 2/10

A mostly typical adventure game lineup, with the addition of dropping items into pools. What aspects the game exceeds at here are not ones I intended this category for. 2/10

There is a hint of mysticism here, but I feel it only rarely reaches through. 0/10

Simple but ugly. 1/10

In-between level story bursts is admittedly more than your average FPS at this time, but it varies between helpful and insane. 1/10

Typical Game Boy sound effects. The music isn't completely annoying but I don't feel the urge to buy the soundtrack on vinyl. 2/10

That's 10. Let's be honest, the Game Boy was never going to have an impressive FPS title considering that DOS wasn't really that impressive at this point, beyond Galactic Empire, and that has some issues. I'm sure period magazine reviewers are nicer to the game, but this game is only fun if you're in a situation where you're playing this legit and its your only option. Yeah, I don't see that happening today.

Maxis will reappear at least twice more, with SimCopter and Streets of SimCity, while Asmik Ace's contributions to the genres I cover are there, but fleeting to my mind. In both cases, I'm sure those titles will be much better than this one.

Coming up, I've had some issues with Acorn Archimedes emulation, which is bad news in general, but I've noticed that the one important title I have on my list, Galactic Dan, is MIA. I guess this is good news for Halloween time, but it doesn't feel like it. I don't know if I'm going to play a certain, much beloved title before I finish another game, but I've been giving Galactic Empire another shot. We'll see if I manage to get anywhere yet!

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