reviews\ Sep 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Syberia - PC - Review

Good adventure titles for the PC are few and far between these days. Many of the games that the genre has to offer turn out to be disappointing. The tried and true method of scrolling the mouse cursor over the screen for a hot spot just becomes miserable if the story is mindless. It is rare to find a gem that can immerse you in the gaming world and leave the player wanting more. Syberia is one of those rare gems that will delight those players who take the time to experience it.

The game follows the journey of an American lawyer from New York named Kate Walker. I'm from New York so the game gets an automatic point here. She represents a toy company interested in buying the famous automaton factory in a place called Valadilene. The factory is owned by the soul-surviving member of the prestigious Voralberg family. Her name is Anna. Anna has agreed to sell the factory because of financial difficulty.

When Kate arrives however, she discovers that Anna has passed away and the deal for the factory can not continue. Anna died of old age, but she left a letter indicating that her brother was still alive somewhere, and he is the only other person who can seal the deal to the factory as the rightful heir.

Sound riveting yet? The story is a bit dry, but there is more to it. Kate must travel across the country in search of Hans Voralberg, Anna's brother who is somewhat mysterious. Along the way she finds out some interesting facts about Hans in a way that screams Rosebud. An ancient Mammoth toy replaces the sled. Citizen Kane anyone? This may sound like a dud, but it's done in such a way that it actually holds your interest throughout.

As Kate travels through the country her personal life is on display with strategically placed cell phone conversations with people back in the states. So the story is as much about her and how she changes as a person as the game progresses.

Okay I know it sounds like one of those old black and white flicks from the forties that your grandparents watch on the movie classics channel. It is the quality and attention to detail that makes Syberia rise above the competition though. Besides I really dig some of those old forties flicks myself. Ever hear of The Maltese Falcon?

The graphics in this game are absolutely beautiful. Many of the locations are epic in scale, and simply fascinating to look at. The level of detail is mind-blowing and it quickly sets a dark somber atmosphere. The designs make the game world look lived in and realistic. In one scene a tiny droplet of rain fell from a lamppost on the street with such clarity I couldn't help but be impressed.

The interface is one of the smoothest I've ever seen incorporated into an adventure game. The mouse cursor changes into one of several different icons as you scroll across the screen. Fear not however, Syberia doesn't contain a tiresome pixel hunt that seems endless. In fact most of the time Kate will turn her head when she passes something of interest. This lends a bit of help to the player, and reminds me of Manny from Grim Fandango.

The puzzles are well done in that they are logical and for the most part have relevance to the story. There was only one puzzle involving a bird and an egg that I thought was a bit much. It drove me a bit mad, but I recovered by the next level. Perhaps the game progression is too simple for veteran adventure diehards, but I can't say that I'd agree. If you can't finish the game because the puzzles are too hard than what is the point. Black Dahlia is an excellent example. Incredible game with sick, impossible puzzles.

The voice acting in Syberia is the cherry on top. Whoever played Kate Walker was very good. In fact all of the voiceover work was dead on. There was none of that over acting stereotype cliché we hear so often. The only character that reminded me of fingernails scraping a chalkboard was Momo. It is clear why he sounds like he does however, and it actually fits into the story.

The player can not die in Syberia. There isn't much action either. There are a few explosions though, and the story is different than anything else out there. This title is superior in just about every way to the majority of adventure games out right now. It should definitely be experienced if you are in the mood for story above action. Every now and then story above action is a good thing. Trust me. Sometimes we can all use a little break from running down hallways and shooting at baddies.

Gameplay 9.0
Syberia incorporates one of the smoothest interfaces I've ever seen in an adventure title. Game control consists exclusively with the mouse, and not much is required. Left click to execute a command or pick up an object. Right click to bring up the inventory.

Graphics: 9.5 
Simply smashing. Character animations are fluid and actually interesting to watch. The locations are epic and beautifully detailed. The design allows for complete immersion.

Sound: 9
Aside from having excellent voice actors the music and ambient sound is very well done. The sounds within the world such as rain and thunder or footsteps and train engines are able to blend in easily and create a real life like experience. The music is rather sad in some moments which just lends to the somber emotions in the search of Hans who is rumored to be dead, and who when alive was an outcast.

Difficulty: Medium
Aside from the bird and egg puzzle the solutions to the game were logical and relevant to the story. I believe this is how every game should be so players who have real lives don't have to be stumped at every single turn.

Concept: 9 
Following Kate as she grows as a person, and uncovers the mysterious life of Hans Voralberg is a refreshing diversion to the regurgitated stories to many of the titles out there today.

Overall: 9
Syberia offers a different type of gaming experience that is well worth the time. While it doesn't have many fireworks or action sequences is does have a unique story that will delight those of you who are hungry for something different than your average adventure title or just tired of shooters.


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