Review by ploodie

"More of an expierence than a game - enjoyable, yet dissatisfying in the end."

Syberia has been hyped to death and even achieved "GAME OF THE YEAR" status in . . . some award arena, I'm not sure which. But is all the hype well-placed? Well, I guess it depends on what you expect from a game.

Let's see . . . there are three types of Adventure games - Puzzle games, Key/Item Quest games, and Puzzle/Key Quest games which mix the first two. Syberia is definitely a Key Quest game. There is little to no puzzle solving required, and all but the newest of Adventure gamers will find this an easy play with no walk-through necessary (with the possible exception of the Drink Mixing puzzle near the end). The main portion of the game is simply point-and-clicking a third-person perspective character from pre-rendered scene to scene in search of hot-spots and inventory items - most of which are located at or near the hot-spots they interact with. There is very little mystery as to which item goes where and what to do with the items once you find them.

So, again, whether or not you enjoy the game will be based on what kind of game you want. Syberia's strengths are NOT in the game-play department, but more in the story-telling. So, from an Adventure point of view, the game is very dissatisfying in that it is easy and can be finished over a weekend (I actually wrapped it in about 12 hours.

But, the story being the strong point, the game surpasses many others in that category! It is a beautiful story for most of its run, and the lead character (Kate Walker) goes through a nice and fitting transformation. Actually, I wish they had done more to make her a self-centered character at the start of the game, which may have more effectively shown the change she makes.

However, the story does begin to stretch a little thin in the end. For awhile, the mystery of who the missing heir is and where he might be is captivating enough to keep us exploring - but at the point where a man steals your robot's hands to build a robot organ-player, and refuses to give them back unless you go find a world-famous retired opera singer and bring her back to perform only for him in his Eastern European coal mine - well, it starts to drag a little!

Along the way, you will be pestered by Kate's friends via her cell phone. For awhile, I found this very irritating. The conversations always seemed pointless. But as the story progressed, you began to understand what the game makers were doing - creating the motivation for Kate's decisions later in the game. It is a nice touch.

But where the game truly comes into its own is in the visuals! The art direction of this project is truly unique. The setting begins in the Alps and moves into Eastern Europe. The mood of the game is one of a wondrous age come and gone, with only the decaying remains to tell us about it. Gigantic bird aviaries overgrown with Moss, a sea-side resort with half-sunken ships in the dock, an abandoned mine, a dismantled space command center . . . you get the picture. All of these settings underscore the storyline, which begins fittingly with the funeral of the last descendant of a great family of mechanical toys (not THOSE kind of toys, sicko!) Beautiful creations of ingenuity, untainted by the cynical grasp of cold capitalism with it's assembly line mentality. As you explore the empty factory and interact with its automatons, you slowly uncover the story of the departed owner and her estranged brother. Along the way, you mourn the passing not only of the characters and their creations, but also the way of life that held uniqueness and quality in higher regard over mass-production! There is a very wistful and haunting mood the game creates will we remain in your mind well after the game has been completed and ditched from your hard drive!

The story and visuals certainly are enough to recommend the game. For me personally, a little more care given to the puzzles (or lack thereof) would have made this the perfect game!

Perhaps my main gripe is simply technical. Kate just doesn't move very well! At each of four major locations, you will be doing A LOT of running back and forth. In fact, in one sequence you are literally sent from character to character just to get a straight answer! All three of the characters I am referring to are spread out in the most extreme borders of the area - and this annoying cat-and-mouse dialog sequence may take you 20 minutes or more just to sit through! It doesn't help that Kate runs pretty slowly, and always pauses at any stairway! Have we not got beyond this limitation in character model animation? Can she not run up the steps?! God forbid you need to turn around, she takes about ten steps to turn all the way around before heading in the new direction! Very annoying!

But, that one complaint aside, the game is still a very fun play, and if you can find it at a half-price store for $10 bucks as I did, you will find it money well spent!

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/06/04

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