If you've had a Myst-size hole in your library lately, or been looking for another puzzler to occupy your time after knocking off The Witness, good news: one came out this week. And the better news: it's Australian.
Made by the good folk at 100 Stones Interactive, The Eyes of Ara launched on Steam earlier this week. It's the first game from the Brisbane-based studio, which plays out in a fashion not too dissimilar from Myst or, more recently, sequels of The Room.
It starts out with an abandoned castle and a note left on the ground. Some kids dared a friend to spend a night in the castle, but the kid was apparently too stupid to make it through the front door. That's no trouble for the average gamer, of course, and after a few clicks you're on your way inside.
The likeness to Myst is all in the movement — everything's done via the mouse. It's nice to be able to hold a drink in one hand and work your way through a logic puzzle. On the other hand (sorry), it's also frustrating when you have to hold the left button down and swipe down multiple times just to enter the right number in a combination lock.
Things start out much as you'd expect them to. The first object you see is a self-contained puzzle. And then the next one requires an object elsewhere in the room. And then you work through multiple rooms. The next one requires multiple objects, and so on.
There's not much of a story, at least not that I've encountered in the first couple of hours. A Steam guide — probably written by the developers — says the game is split into four separate parts, although I've spent a couple of hours flailing around the first series of rooms.
Most of the game largely revolves around holding down the left mouse, looking around the room, scanning for clues or isolated objects, and then stringing it all together. It's not the most nefarious puzzle game in existence, but it's a pleasant distraction. And as someone who enjoyed watching teachers frustrate themselves on the original Myst back in primary school, it's a nice hark back to the yesteryear of adventures.
Without the crappy FMV, mind you.
My biggest problem so far is that I find myself spamming the room, clicking around for any object that might be in reach. You can enable an option in the gameplay settings (it's disabled by default) that highlights things if you get stuck. But the issue is more one of visibility — everything in the castle looks a little too brown. It's like going back to gaming pre-2010 in a lot of ways.
But I'm having fun. It's simple point-and-click puzzling that I can do while listening to a podcast or watching a stream on a second monitor. Mindless fun, except for the times when the puzzles get more fiendish. If that's your jam, check it out on Steam.