If you had to make a list of all the adventure games you could pick to be ported to the Nintendo DS, Syberia would probably land at the very bottom. The 2002 PC point-and-clicker from Microids and Belgian graphic novelist Benoit Sokal was a superb game in its day, but it was also loaded with the kind of extravagant graphical detail that just can't be adapted to a handheld system very well without a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, developer Tetraedge Games has moved the game to its new platform with few changes, which results in a clunky pixel hunt featuring none of the surreal magic of the original game.
Even Syberia's compellingly bizarre story has taken some lumps here. Although you still play as Kate Walker, a New York attorney trying to unravel the many mysteries around a French toy company and its automaton-creating heir, presentation issues interfere with the tale-telling so much that it can be very hard to figure out what exactly is going on. All of the voice samples from the original game have been stripped away, and the music has been dropped to a single fraction of the original score that annoyingly plays over and over again. This gives the game a silent-movie vibe in which Kate never gives any tips or makes any observations about her surroundings. She speaks up only through brief blurbs of text when you are blocked from proceeding into a new area because you haven't wrapped up everything in your present location. So you get the odd "Hey, I can't do that yet!" comment and pretty much nothing else.
This is a real drawback because more direction is desperately needed to make heads or tails out of Syberia. The graphics of the PC version of the game have simply been shrunk down and pixelated to fit onto the DS screens, which makes it very tough to solve puzzles. Some of the objects that you need to pick up are incredibly tiny in their new handheld format, no more than a couple of pixels wide. Visuals are quite blurry as well, making everything so indistinct that you can rarely tell what it is that you're supposed to be looking at, let alone what you might be able to do with it. No effort has been made to ensure that such Lilliputian objects stand out from the backgrounds, either. If you aren't looking for a specific item such as a key on a desk, for instance, chances are awfully good that you won't spot it.
The stylus-dependent interface fails to compensate for these visual issues. The stylus stands in for a mouse cursor and lets you move Kate around on the lower touch screen and open the inventory that is also displayed on the upper screen. You can also select an eye icon that can be scrolled around to see which areas light up with gears, a pick-up hand, or lips indicating that a conversation can be initiated. The control scheme works rather poorly, though, because it is inaccurate. For example, you’ll find yourself accidentally entering a doorway on the top of the screen when you tap a roadway down at the bottom. Movement mistakes are costly, too, given that Kate ambles across every screen at a slow walk and there are no shortcuts when trying to exit an area. Dragging the stylus over every square millimeter of the screen to find objects that you can barely see with the naked eye also isn't a great deal of fun. Using the stylus in this way seems like a cheap dodge to get around the graphical problems inherent in porting a game directly from the PC to a tiny handheld. This choice let the developer avoid the total redesign that would have properly scaled down the visuals for the new platform, but at the cost of turning the entire game into a spectacularly tedious pixel hunt.
The bottom line is that there are much better adventure choices available on the DS than Syberia. This once-impressive PC game has been awkwardly crammed into a tiny cartridge with little attention to how the transition would affect playability, and the results are exactly as bad as you might expect.