Review by DLopez

"A somber, reflective story of the pursuit of dreams."

Syberia has recieved quite a bit of attention from point-and-click game fans mainly because it's the newest project of Benoit Sokal, the creative mind behind Amerzone. So, I guess it could be said Syberia is about as ''hyped'' as a title of this sort can get. I can't answer the question of whether or not it does indeed live up to the hype, but I can certainly say Syberia is a unique vision in this genre of game. It represents that class of game that blurs the line between a pure gaming experience and one of the purely artistic.
For those unfamiliar, Syberia is a 3rd person adventure game in which you take the role of Kate Walker, an American lawyer assigned to handle the sale of a famous, European toy company (Voralberg Toys) to a large conglomerate. The problem is, when Kate arrives in Valedilane, the home of the company, she finds that the owner has just died. Complicating matters, it would seem that a long-lost heir to the company may indeed exist. Unsure of where to start, you (as Kate) must delve into the Voralberg family's mysteries and background story in order to figure out where this mystery heir might be located in Europe. Above all else, Syberia is focused primarily on the story and strong characterizations. There are no minor characters here: not only does everyone need to be talked to in order to gain information and clues, but they all serve to flesh out the locations you'll visit in your quest. The theme in Syberia seems to be fairly clear: one of decay and isolation, but it is by no means a grim game. Rather, it is thought-provoking and somber. As you travel through these fictional locations in the European ''old world'', you encounter people whose jobs no longer matter and towns that no one cares about anymore. You experience eccentricity, but futility as well...a surreal place on Earth where time has left everything and everyone behind. In order to re-enforce this idea, the developers also added in a goodly amount of character development behind Kate herself, who must often call people she knows back in New York; a location that will feel eons away. While you will be pointing-and-clicking around and figuring out a few logic puzzles, it is this story concept that drives the game. This ultimately means that those seeking brain-challenges experienced in games like Myst III or Schizm may be disappointed, as the ''puzzle'' elements are quite limited and simple. Graphically, there's virtually nothing to discuss, Syberia looks fantastic, with amazing semi-static backgrounds absolutely brimming with detail and atmosphere. The sound and music contributes to this as well, but there's no doubting the graphics will impress even jaded adventure gamers. In terms of technical aspects, Syberia is near-perfect and it's only flaws are a few small game development decisions. If I had to make any complaints about this rich, storied experience it would be the following:

-Some of the voice acting is a bit weak given the amazing strength of the central character actors.
-In some cases, too much talking with characters is required to unlock or advance certain things in the game. That said, my advice to those who play Syberia is cover EVERY discussion topic, sometimes repeatedly.
-The comic-book style font used for the subtitles looks kinda dumb.
-The subtitles are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, as well as having several alterations from the much better dialogue script.
-The music gets a little too loud and bombastic at times, which doesn't fit the game's setting well, and sometimes obscures the dialogue.
-Near the end of the game is a puzzle that, in my opinion, defies any easy solution using in-game clues or hints, but is instead a ridiculously complex trial-and-error puzzle that totally breaks the game's attitude and style.

Syberia desperately NEEDS a sequel. Even so, it's a very interesting game that, despite a lot of technical flair, doesn't abandon concepts of solid story-telling and truly memorable characterizations. It allows you to briefly step into a world that's rather unfamiliar, and stays that way even after completion. My rating is 8/10. Not a perfect 10 because of the flaws I listed above, and not a 9 because I feel the game is a tad on the short side.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/05/02, Updated 09/05/02

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