Syberia

Review

posted 12/2/2002 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
There just aren’t that many good adventure games coming our way these days. Maybe game designers think that we have all moved beyond the relatively slow-paced, “stroll through a story” kind of games that I remember fondly. Nowadays it seems that a game is pushed aside if it doesn’t have the latest killer graphics engine coupled with twitch-factor pacing that a hyper-caffeinated squirrel would have trouble managing. Thankfully, however, good adventure games do come along once in a while, and Syberia fits the bill nicely.

Story and puzzle quality are the most important part of any adventure game, and Syberia delivers on both counts. Syberia begins as Our Hero, Kate Walker, arrives in the quaint little French town of Valadilene. Kate is an American lawyer representing a toy company interested in buying the local clockwork automaton factory. Things are suddenly complicated upon the death of the company’s owner, and her deathbed revelation of a living heir to the company. Now Kate must begin a journey to find the new owner and convince him to relinquish the company. I won’t give away anything more of the story, except to say that it’s very well done. Unlike many adventure games, the story is very low-key. Kate isn’t going to save the world, she’s not going to fight the Forces of Darkness. She is just an ordinary person trying to do a job that takes her through an unusual series of places and events. It’s kind of refreshing to find a game that can go back to the simple stories and still succeed.

The pacing of the story is also quite well done. The story opens up with Kate heading to her hotel. Very little opening cutscene, no three-page biography to read. The player is just dropped into the beginning of the story. But, through her dialogue and the use of cell-phone calls from friends and family back in the States, we see her character develop and grow. However, while the story is very well done, the dialogue sometimes trips over the language barrier. I don’t recall anything being wrong, but occasionally the dialogue was just…off. This never really detracted from the game, however, and after a while the small idiosyncrasies just became part of the atmosphere.

The puzzles are also well done. They are by no means difficult, however, so those looking for a challenge probably won’t find it here. Most puzzles are “use a specific item here”, mixed in with the occasional “push the buttons in the correct order” variety. There’s nothing new or outstanding here, but neither are the puzzles frustrating or off-the-wall. There are the standard oddities of adventure game heroes—Kate won’t cross a 2-foot stream or touch a muddy piece of wood, and she seems to have an aversion to small birds. The biggest problem I had in solving the puzzles was simply missing an object on screen somewhere—there is a bit of the pixel hunting and looking for cursor hotspots that is inevitable with adventure games. Miss a spot while exploring and you’ll find yourself wandering around for some time.
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