While Syberia II isn't all that fans might have hoped for, it's still a very fine game and likely to provide you with hours of enjoyment.
Syberia was a magical game that got just about everything right. Above all, it captured a real spirit of adventure that many adventure games ironically lack. The game's richly imagined, visually stunning world created a real sense of wonder and exploration. The puzzles were mostly interesting and reasonable, tying in to the gameworld smoothly and naturally. Syberia also featured an unusually well-rounded, strong heroine, Kate Walker. She began the story as a New York attorney sent to a small European town to close a business deal. By the end of the game, she had made the decision of a lifetime: to leave her promising career and thorny personal life behind to help a strange old man, Hans Voralberg, pursue his lifelong dream of finding a lost land of living mammoths. In Syberia II, you lead Kate on her further adventures with Hans toward the legendary realm of Syberia, hidden somewhere in the distant East. While this sequel doesn't quite capture the ineffable magic of the original game, it's still a strong follow-up that easily surpasses many recent adventures.
In Syberia II, you continue your journey into the unknown aboard Hans' streamlined clockwork train, with the timid and sometimes peevish automaton, Oscar, again at the controls. The game opens in the run-down Russian town of Romansburg, a tiny little frontier outpost overlooked by an imposing old monastery on a nearby mountaintop. From there, you head into the snowy Russian wilderness where you'll encounter some ferocious wildlife and an old friend from the first game who makes a dramatic entrance. Your travels eventually take you to a remote cave complex that houses a village of vaguely Eskimo-like people known as the Youkol. Eventually, you'll help the ailing Hans travel into the great unknown to see if you can reach the fabled land of Syberia at last.
Other than some second-act tedium, Syberia II is fairly well paced, with an ever-greater sense of expectancy as you near your final goal. Then again, the journey as a whole isn't as enticing this time around. The first game let you travel on an exciting journey while also unraveling an intriguing, emotionally captivating mystery. Here you're only doing more traveling on the same train, with the same characters, hoping for some big payoff at the end. All along the way you'll have to coddle Oscar, who again hides in the train, worries, or complains most of the time, as well as Hans, who is subject to delusional fits and manages to get himself in serious trouble repeatedly. Plus, the game does little to make the idea of reaching Syberia enticing in and of itself, beyond its symbolic value as a land of childhood dreams made manifest. Unless you're a particularly big fan of mammoths, the whole notion is likely to leave you unmoved.
Lack of emotional resonance hurts the story in a number of ways, actually. There are indeed a couple of moments that tug at the heartstrings. One of them is strikingly powerful because it's so unexpected and strange and yet so fitting and melancholy. For the most part, though, the story just isn't as well fleshed out as that of the original game. There's a thematically relevant but boring subplot told exclusively through cutscenes, showing how Kate's old law firm sends a detective after her to reel her back in. These scenes--basically just voice-overs of phone conversations--aren't interesting and are also jarring in their occasional use of profanity, which seems totally out of place in the gentle, wistful atmosphere of the Syberia games. Imagine someone suddenly cussing in the middle of an animated Disney film. There's also a weak in-game subplot with two silly and unbelievable villains, Igor and Ivan, one an outrageously slow simpleton, the other a cardboard cutout of a cackling bad guy. More importantly, the ending, while heartfelt, feels too abrupt, leaving too many unanswered questions.