Syberia II Hands-On Preview

We rejoin investigator Kate Walker for a brief look at her continuing adventures.

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Last year's Syberia from Microids was one of the best graphical adventure games in years. Its beautiful 3D graphics chronicled the adventures of high-powered business broker Kate Walker, whose visit to a sleepy Alpine village to foreclose on an old factory turned into a bizarre adventure involving the death of the city's beloved matriarch, Anna Voralberg, a missing-persons case, and a legion of intricately detailed clockwork robots. The game used the now-classic adventure-game formula of controlling an onscreen 3D character with mouse clicks (an interface that was perfected in classic games like Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey), solving puzzles by talking to key characters, and using important inventory items on your quest to unravel a great mystery.

Kate Walker returns to her quest to find Syberia.
Kate Walker returns to her quest to find Syberia.

The sequel will pick up more or less right after the end of first game, chronicling the continuing adventures of Kate and her quest to find the mysterious land known as Syberia. We were able to try out a very early version of the sequel that could very well be the beginning of the game--but please be advised that this preview will reveal information that may ruin some surprises for players who haven't yet played the first game.

At the beginning of the version we played, Kate Walker begins her adventure aboard a train--the same one she leapt aboard at the end of the first game. Taking a quick stroll to the very end of the train, Kate discovers the diminutive Hans, the mysterious brother of the deceased Anna Voralberg, hard at work completing his latest automaton. However, Hans needs Kate's help to finish his work, and the train can't leave until he's finished. In the meantime, Kate is free to explore the train and the nearby station.

A quick trip out of the caboose reveals that the snowy train station is locked up tight, except for a gated stairwell that leads down to a tunnel under the station, which in turn leads to a cabaret. Upon entering the mostly empty establishment, Kate walks past a few tables and seated patrons to the stage, where four metallic horses stand motionless, mounted on interconnected gears. The horses are then shown in a cutscene that, like several of the cinematic scenes from the original Syberia, is prerendered but thankfully rather brief and not especially jarring. On approaching the stage, Kate has the opportunity to speak with the cabaret's ringmaster, who sits behind a desk and reveals that his horses no longer function. Kate offers to help, which brings her to an actual puzzle. For an introductory puzzle, it's a rather easy one--she simply needs to examine a network of cog connectors and fiddle with them until all the horses are mobile again. The game then switches to a cutscene in which the horses finally come to life.

Like in the previous game, automatons will play a significant role in Syberia II.
Like in the previous game, automatons will play a significant role in Syberia II.

From what we've seen of Syberia II, the sequel bears a striking resemblance to the original, though that isn't really much of a problem, considering how good the first game looked. The 2D environments we've seen so far in the sequel are all highly detailed and colorful, and they feature a subdued, washed-out color palette that lends the snow-covered train station an appropriately somber look. Syberia II also features 3D character models that seem just as detailed as those in the original game, though the camera actually zooms in much closer on Kate and the other characters than it usually did in the previous game. Likewise, the sequel's sound seems of comparably high quality--the version we played featured more of the subtle, symphonic score that was featured in the first game, as well as the same kind of spoken dialogue for Kate, Hans, and the ringmaster.

Although Microids hasn't yet revealed the game's official US publisher, the game itself seems to be coming along well. Syberia II is scheduled for release later this year.

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