Review by THayes

"Magnificent and atmospheric adventure"

Syberia is an excellent adventure game made by Microids. It involves a lawyer named Kate Walker, who travels to the quiet town of Valadilene to close the Voralberg business, which is responsible for creating a number of robot-like creations known as automatons. Upon discovering that the owner of the business has passed away, she hears of an heir named Hans Voralberg who ran away from Valadilene to look for mammoths. She soon finds an automaton engineer called Oscar, and together they travel across Europe on their search for Hans.

The game initially presents a very lonely and depressing atmosphere. Valadilene appears to be a place that though once beautiful, is now in a state of inevitable ruin. Automatons that were once perfectly polished and fully operational are now dirty and rusted, buildings and factories once operational and lively are now empty and have the look of a cold and isolated place. Indeed, through much of this area of the game I was both impressed by the beauty of the game and saddened by the state of the village.

After much puzzle solving and exploration in Valadilene, the game moves on to the quiet university town of Barrockstadt. Seemingly home to only a handful of people, this place though seemingly more friendly than Valadilene still presents a feeling of a place that is experiencing a bad tie, having been through the best. The whole game exhibits this style, it can be surprising the sense of loneliness it has on the atmosphere.

Of course, this is hardly surprising. The graphics are absolutely astounding, far surpassing any other adventure game I had ever played before, even those of Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey. The characters in the game, especially Walker, are animated superbly. Unlike earlier adventure games where there is no animation for picking up or using items, every action in this game is supplied by an animation, whether it's talking on the phone, operating a tiny button on a panel, or even just the body language on the various characters.

The control takes place in the form of a ring, which is operated by the mouse. When the ring is passed over an interactive object, it will glow. Clicking in when this happens will cause Kate to get, push or look depending on the type of object. Items which are picked up are stored in the inventory, which can then be used at a later time. Once nice feature about the game is the ability to receive and send phone calls on a cell phone. This presents a sense of realism not often seen in adventure game.

The characters in the game are for the most part very interesting. Near the start of the game Kate meets Oscar, an automaton train driver with a severe adoration for following protocol. Oscar is the source of travel to other areas of the game, where players will meet the strange university rectors in Barrockstadt that appear to be hiding a secret, the mad director of the warehouse in Komkolzgrad who demands to see Helena Romanski, and the incredibly frustrating hotel manager of Aralbad. All characters are nearly always over the top in some way, however this only increases the player's sense of interest and wonder in the game.

The puzzles aren't exceptionally original, and some do involve the standard routine of getting an item from one location and using it in another. Some puzzles also unfortunately involve pixel-hunting, slowly moving the ring over the screen until an item is highlighted. One such puzzle in the attic of a house in Valadilene involves walking over to a seemingly empty area of the room, turning on a light to reveal nothing, and only when looking closely does it become possible to see a tiny sketch of a mammoth that is essential in progressing further in the game.

Most puzzles though involve simply talking to characters to discover clues, and though no puzzles should challenge the experienced adventure gamer, all are fun to solve and a definite sense of accomplishment is felt in the game. Syberia features some of finest graphics, assortment of weird and wonderful characters, and a long and intriguing plot spread over four atmospheric locations. Overall, a magnificent adventure game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/21/03, Updated 01/22/04

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