Syberia
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
XS Games
Developer
Microids
Genre
Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Use of Alcohol, Mild Language
 
Grade
The Good

• Great story
• Gorgeous design
• Intelligent puzzles

The Bad

• Controls could be better
• Too much backtracking

 
Grade
B

This is the part where I tell you about how the point-and-click adventure genre used to be big on the PC but it has become a dying breed, one that has rarely seen the light of day on the consoles. Now that I've gotten that out of the way... Make no mistake - you do manually control Kate Walker's movements with the left analog stick, but this game is most obviously a point-and-click adventure at heart. As is standard with the genre, Syberia is a strong story-based game where the player visits locations to gather items, solve puzzles and talk to people to move the game forward.

Written by author/illustrator Benoît Sokal, the story finds Kate Walker, an associate with a New York law firm, arriving in the small French village of Valadilene, where she is to finish a deal to buy up the local toy factory for a client. But when she arrives, she finds out that the person who she was to finalize the deal with, Anna Voralberg, is recently deceased and there seems to be another surviving heir, Hans Voralberg, that she must locate. Hans, who had supposedly died many years ago, went off to Syberia, but made sure to leave his imprint on his path. It doesn't take Kate long to realize that this village and her subsequent trek to locate Hans will not be normal, by any means. The village is filled with automatons and other inventive toy-like trinkets, all devices designed by Hans and brought to life in the toy factory through the direction of his sister.

Along with the finely crafted and delivered main story are some nice character interactions between Kate and other characters in the game. A lot of the time, you will find yourself drawn into conversations that help Kate move further along, be it by hinting what you need to do, where to go or even adding another topic in the list of questions you can ask. From time to time, Kate will also get phone calls from her boss, mother, friend and boyfriend. These calls don't serve a purpose towards the game, but do give you an insight on the character's personal life away from this rather surreal adventure.

With most games, I'd spend some time going over the details of the battle engine or how to gain experience and what skills you can get, but with adventures like Syberia, these are nonexistent. Instead, players need to travel in the location you're at, speaking with characters, locating items and solving puzzles. Finding so much as a key or a set of gears is enough to get the player into a previous locked location, allowing for you to find new items and puzzles to further your progress. Puzzles in Syberia are often quite logical and can only be tough if you're trying to think too obtusely. While the game is made to control like a 3D action title, there are still heavy point-and-click elements present. If Kate moves near a door, NPC or item she can interact with, varying icons will come up letting you know what you can do. Some places will transition to allowing the player a closer look so they can either pick up multiple items or work on a puzzle. Because of the strong story aspect, expect to find a lot of written material to pick up. And when I saw "a lot" I don't mean a few notes, but actual diaries and newsletters crammed full of text that is near impossible to read at default magnification on your standard TV. Luckily, you can zoom in and out with the triggers and swap pages with the Black and White buttons. For those not big on reading, you don't have to actually read much that you find, but it does serve well to let the player know a lot of the game's backstory.

Outside of the story, one of the finest aspects of Syberia is its look. Not unlike the Resident Evil series, Syberia's gameworld is composed of polygonal character models moving over gorgeously detailed prerendered backgrounds. The backdrops, a few of which are animated, really set a marvelous tone and does wonders in drawing the player into the story. The character models are decent, but you'll rarely get a close enough look at any of them for the player to worry about how the characters look.

Audiowise, Syberia features a lot of spoken word, which is delivered well, even though most of the characters are pretty reserved. You'll have no problem listening in with the story and there are some honestly funny moments in the script to help break up what can prove to be a pretty melancholy and sober tale. Sound effects are pretty lightweight - the only ones you'll really notice are Kate's footfalls. The musical themes for Syberia are quite nice, too bad they aren't present as often as I would like. Too often, you're left to the silence of ambient sound effects, most of which play second fiddle to Kate's own stomping feet on whatever ground surface she's running across.

Probably the biggest structural flaw behind Syberia is the poor control implementation. Plain and simple, controlling Kate is a bit of chore. While she controls relative to the screen, once you change camera angles, you have to immediately right her path or chance turning back around. In some locations, there is some serious problems with collision detection, leaving Kate hung up and forcing you to find her path around. And there were times where I just felt like I was holding the control in the wrong direction all together. Also, there tends to be a lot of backtracking in the game, so much so that even the most gorgeous of locations can lose their luster by the 20th time that you pass through.

If you're looking for a great adventure that has a fine story that will draw you in, Syberia is worth your time and effort. If you don't mind some backtracking, lots of story and some hearty reading, then the $20 price tag is well worth it for this title.

- - Vane

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