"Has so much potential, but fails to deliver."

I've been playing adventure games pretty much as long as i can remember. Titles such as 'Beneath a Steel Sky' and the Gabriel Knight trilogy rate as some of the most enjoyable games I've played. Consequently I was pretty excited about 'Syberia', especially considering that the last truly classic adventure game to be released was 'The Longest Journey', two years ago. However, the game, for me, was a huge let-down; for the substantial part of it, it left me feeling bored and uninterested.

Graphics - 7

The cut scenes look, on the whole, absolutely stunning. They are detailed, well rendered, and help to enhance the atmosphere of the game. The in-game graphics are kind of lacking something though. The game uses pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D character models, both of which are done nicely enough. But in my opinion the two do not integrate especially well (not just in this game, but in all games that use this technique). The backgrounds look pretty, but, despite the addition of animated effects such as moving water and circling birds, they just look inherently fake, which detracts from the feeling of immersion that games should provide in 2002.

Sound – 3

The voice acting is generally pretty atrocious. Kate, the lead character, is satisfactory, but just about every other person encountered in the game sounds terrible. A lot of the time, the voice doesn't even vaguely fit the character, such as the Russian hotel owner who has a pronounced English accent. If this were some low-budget, low-price adventure game i could overlook this, but considering Microids reportedly spent $2 million developing 'Syberia', there is no excuse for such shoddiness. The music, conversely, pretty good, sounding suitably epic.

Gameplay – 3

The main problem with the game is the lack of puzzles. There is only one decent puzzle in the entire game, and that is totally inexcusable. I am all for logical puzzles that integrate into the plot in adventure games, but in 'Syberia', there are so few items, so few places you can go, and so few options (you cannot even combine two items in your inventory), that it is impossible to get stuck for longer than about twenty seconds. In a number of instances i knew exactly what was going to happen and what would be required to solve the puzzles long before i was required to by the game, leaving me with nothing but a tiresome traipse around to find the relevant items. I should point out that I am not usually particularly brilliant at solving puzzles, and most adventure games see me getting stuck for a while a quite a few times during the game. But that's part of the enjoyment of playing adventure games; getting satisfaction from solving a challenging puzzle. This only occurs in 'Syberia' in one instance. Which is simply not good enough. The setting would have allowed for lots of challenging but logical puzzles to be included, but somehow, somewhere in the creation process, something went badly wrong with the design of this game.
And it really annoys me having to wait while I watch my character walk across the same screen five or six times. Once or twice is fine, but any more than that and I want to be able to double click on an exit and skip to the next screen immediately without watching the animation. 'Syberia' doesn't let you do this. And it is incredibly irritating.

Plot – 5

The plot of 'Syberia' has so much potential, but it fails to deliver. The middle two locations, which make up a substantial part of the game, are just dull. There is no atmosphere, the story does not move along quickly, and i was damn bored playing it. This is not helped by the overlong conversations with other characters where there is virtually no interaction at all. Ironically, the last couple of hours of the game are very good, making me want to carry on playing and anxious to find out what happens next. It's a shame this momentum could not have been carried throughout the entire game.

I really would not recommend buying this at full price. It’s short, unsatisfying and has far too many shortcomings. It is just not an entertaining game, period. And if there were not such a dearth of adventure games being released anymore, I highly doubt 'Syberia' would be getting more than a tiny fraction of the attention and praise it seems to be receiving at the moment.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 09/07/02, Updated 09/07/02

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