STAFF REVIEW of Syberia (Xbox)

Wednesday, September 17, 2003.
by kitt

Syberia Box art In a gaming world flooded by button mashers, f.p.s.s, bigger, louder and faster, Syberia offers something a little bit different. Syberia offers its own spin on the classic point-and-click adventure game genre that was popularized in the 80s and early 90s. If you have never heard of this title, it is actually a conversion of one of 2002s best PC adventure games and is a product of Benoit Sokal, a renowned French comic artist

In Syberia you assume the role of Kate Walker, a young, ambitious New York lawyer on assignment to close what appears to be the simple sale of a French mechanical toy factory that manufactures gear-wounded gizmos. To put it simply, this is a story about a real estate deal gone wrong. Complications arise and the plot beginnings to thicken as Kate is sent on a life-altering goose chase through Europe and Eastern Russia to find a mysterious inventor, Hans Voralberg, the man to seal the deal.

Syberia offers a truly unique gaming experience. The storyline is intriguing and the characters are memorable. This is also a story about self-discovery as you explore the life of Kate Walker. The combination of an enchanting soundtrack and rich and artistic visuals, create a game world like no other, filled with mechanical wonders, mystery and intrigue.

Not to say that this title and this genre do not have any faults. At times Syberia can be a slow plodding experience. Scenes that at first sight were breath-taking become forgettable and repetitive as you run, run and run through the same scenes looking for clues or nearly invisible exits. Controls are simple, puzzles are novice, gameplay in linear and not very hands-on and the main objective is pretty straightforward.

This game will appeal to gamers looking for a laid-back experience, but would be suggested for anyone looking for a good story or variety in their video gaming life. This is a budget title, so the price could'nt be better. Go ahead; give your Xbox a taste of something a little different

Discover your short-term goal, find a puzzle, solve the puzzle, and move on to the next chapter. This is Syberia, actually this is an extreme oversimplification, but the controls are pretty straightforward and the game manual is thin. You enter the game with nothing, but soon after, the story starts to unfold. Your goals become clear while at the same time learning little by little something new about each of the main characters. Gameplay is very linear. Even though it attempts to hide this fact, the reality is that you finish this thing puzzle by puzzle. The challenges and puzzles are fun, but not very challenging. You can expect to hunt for keys, find missing objects or figure out how to operate a variety of mechanical gadgets.

You progress through 5 major locales utilizing a point-and-click interface. Basic character movement is controlled with the left thumb stick, which at times is a bit awkward to control getting stuck in corners now and again. X is used to run which you never take your thumb off in this game. Items of interest or certain areas of interest become highlighted which then take advantage of the A button, used to interact or select items, often requiring you to press the same button a couple of times for it to work which becomes annoying fast. I never really understood why the developers allowed us to freely run the character through the streets, but make it mandatory to select the stairs and press the A button to go up/down them, even though there is no where else to go. Kate, the main character also has an inventory of items and documents at her disposal using Y.

This game ultimately requires persistence and patience. No brain busting puzzles here. Just make sure not to skip over key pieces of dialogue or clues or else you will find yourself running in circles. This game offers zero replay value, it is quite linear and has one fixed ending. It does offer some extras though. On the disc you can find a 'making of' and also a bio on Benoit Sokal, which is an added bonus considering I had no idea who he was before I played this game.

The stunning visuals are one of the most notable characteristics of this game, eye candy one could say. The 3D models are very well modeled and shaded and the backgrounds are like gorgeous paintings. Old French villages, surreal environments, intricate mechanical masterpieces all fill the screen.

The problem with the backgrounds is that they are more like Non-interactive 2D backdrops. Any realism is limited to certain spots of animation such as a refracting river, a spinning gear or a few flying birds, the rest it motionless. At times it feels like your running through a painting.

Syberia was originally designed for PC monitors therefore many of the game's wide-angles are filled with fine detail and text that is very difficult to make out and some characters just blend into the background. Some passages from one screen to another are not clearly identifiable and some are just !&%$@#* well invisible.

The audio is generally well done. The background music is appropriate and the ambient environmental noises assist in developing a realistic atmosphere. The biggest downfall with regards to the audio element of this game is the voice acting. All the dialogue is delivered via audio rather then text, but subtitles are an option. In a nut shell the voice acting is not believable and the accents are very bad. The initial setting is France, which you would never guess by listening to some of the locals. Kate also receives random cell phone calls throughout the game. These conversations are quite awkward, some times meaningless and definitely not believable.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.2 / 10


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