Review by Cthulhu

"A visual feast that falls short on gameplay"

Maybe its just me, but it seems that the back of the Syberia box promises so much that was not delivered. While the game does have terrific artwork, the ''Limitless World of Imagination'' it professes is limited itself by the bland gameplay and paltry amount of locations

Gameplay: 3
For any point-and-click adventure game to have a decent amount and quality of gameplay, all it really needs to include are the options to Look, Use, and Talk to objects and/or people. This is basic stuff, in my opinion, but in Syberia, those options are butchered. I could not believe that such a hyped game seemingly forgot to include the option to Look at the surroundings around your character

In fact, the only things that you can Look at are the documents collected throughout your adventure. Nowhere can you place your cursor over some imaginative piece of machinery or some detailed work of art that the art designers obviously spent hours on and expect a comment, a quip, or anything. The only things you can interact with are people and objects of significance. To me, that narrows the game down and makes the world of Syberia seem a lot smaller than it tries to be

The ability to manipulate objects is also a function that could have been so much more. All you are really allowed to do is to pick up the object and use it on something. Thats it. 2 choices. That is quite bad

I also felt that the location detection for Kate's walking and running was not polished. The game's animations will only allow you to walk into or out of another location, but in between that you can run all you want. But many times in the game, I would be running towards a door, and then when I'd get close, Kate would suddenly stop and then walk back a little further away from the door and then go into the whole animation of opening and going through the door. There is a spot on the floor from which she must move from in order to actually open a door! I may be the minority in this, but I found that very annoying and quite brainless of the programmers

Even though the graphics is the most obviously best selling point of the game, it comes into conflict with the gameplay. Many objects and locations in the game that you are required to pick up or interface with are blended in so well with the background that they are effectively hidden. Only through tedious searching from your cursor are you able to find the sometimes tiny location in which the cursor changes from its usual shape into a hand icon that lets you pick objects up, or a wrench-looking icon(which incidentally looks so much like the regular icon that I got the two confused often) that tells you that you may manipulate it. In this respect, the game seems to artificially try to extend its length, knowing you'll probably miss an object or two the first time around and end up having to backtrack and put your cursor over every inch of the screen. I felt this tactic cheap and infuriating

This game was hard for me because of the gameplay issues I mentioned in the above paragraph. Sometimes, I was so angry that I did not feel like going over the screen with a fine-tooth comb to discover where the programmers hid the tiny area which the cursor changed shape. If you are a person who enjoys that, you'll probably not fine the puzzles especially difficult. If you like to go through a game a little faster, then you might find it as frustrating as I did

Story: 5
The story in this game is passable, but the gameplay issues I discussed contributed to my feeling that the world was a lot less imaginative and lot more limited than I was promised. I did not like some of the story-driving plot items because they were simply too incredulous for my tastes. Chief among these complaints is the fact that the story asks you to believe that simple clockwork and gears can create talking robots with artificial intelligence, something even our greatest computers cannot even approach right now, and that what is essentially a music box can dually serve as an automated theater. Most people will probably be able to overlook this so I do not expect everyone to take issue on this particular point

Kate Walker is believable in her role as city slicker suddenly dumped into the countryside however, the believability pretty much ends there. Many characters you meet seemed to have been arbitrarily placed there and stuck until the time when Kate waltzes in and solves whatever problem that befell them. These characters were too convenient for the situation and thus makes the story predictably flow in some predestined direction. Some may call this destiny, but I call it bad story writing

Graphics: 7
Syberia delivers some fantastic computer rendered backdrops that seeks to pull you into its world. You can literally see where the majority of the game's budget was spent. Detailed art for even some of the most typical of background fillers was smooth and refined. Graphics should not be a complaint for this game

Sound: 5
Syberia also features appropriate ambient music and sound effects that gets you in the mood to do some exploring. I felt that it wasnt used enough however, and there really isnt much in the way of quantity of tracks. There is an unusual usage of music in which a track plays whenever you've solved a puzzle or complete some required objective. The music plays until its finished or until you've solved another puzzle. Odd, but it works

Replay value: 3
Like most adventure games, there really isnt much replayability. Once you're finished with the game, thats it. Nothing new happens the second time around and you dont get any special powers or the ability to kill annoying Non-Player Characters or anything like that. If you really want some replayability, buy the Syberia Game of the Year edition that comes with a bonus CD that features the Making of Syberia and some pretty pictures. You can fire that up on your CD-ROM and pretend like you're experiencing the whole game again

This game can be completed within a few hours if you manage to solve the puzzles fairly quickly. I didnt do this, but you can finish in one sitting. After that, armed with the knowledge of all the puzzles, you can probably blow through the second time around in less than 2 hours. The game is really very short. Many locations barred by locked doors seems like places you will eventually visit, but ah ha! Its a trick! You are never meant to go in there! There are a very limited number of actual screens that you pass through and that contributes to the short length

Overall: 5
This is definitely not a game you should buy. Its a rental game or a borrow-from-a-friend-and-give-back-in-a-week kind of game. The only positive thing you really would take from this game are the graphics, they might stick in your mind for a while. Other than that, the game as a whole is forgettable and will likely end up at the back of your closet next to Daikatana collecting dust and serving as a warning to other games

Why this game isnt higher
Gameplay issues destroy this game and for an adventure game, thats really saying something. There is no worrying about collision detection or control responsiveness, its just point and click. For a game to get this wrong, it takes a monumental feat of laziness and no foresight whatsoever

Why this game isnt lower
Its a pretty-looking game and the story can be interesting. It didnt really click with me, but I can see how Kate's struggles may resonate with others. Some of you will really like the ending and message it inspires and some of you might not find Oscar as annoying as I did

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 10/20/03

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