User Rating: 6.7 | Syberia PC
Syberia had been hailed by many as the second coming of the traditional adventure genre, which has been on life support in America in recent years, despite the genre's continued popularity in Europe. After reading effusive praise for the game, I decided it was worth the still like-new price tag, and I made the investment. As someone who has invested time in dozens of adventure games in times past, I must say that just like with The Longest Journey and Sanitarium, I just don't get it. Yes, Syberia looks pretty, and last year, it probably looked even better, but that doesn't mean the graphics are without flaw. For one, the art direction can't decide if it's going for a realistic or a hand-drawn ambience, so the look is inconsistent at times, even within the same locales. Furthermore, the backgrounds seem awfully static, lacking a sense of lively animation. Sure, there are a few birds here and there, but the trees don't sway in the wind, nor do shadows dance on sunlit walls. After seeing all of this done with 2 in in the GameCube's Resident Evil games, it's a bit jarring to see such a static 2D world. Furthermore, in certain areas where there is a clear foreground and distant background, the screen scrolls without any sort of parallax whatsoever, which looks sort of amateurish, considering this was a graphical feat accomplished in games of the early 90's, when a 486 at 33 MHz was considered a powerful rig. The final complaint is that the graphics are just a little too sharp, and textures a bit too detailed for their own good. It makes the scenes look needlessly busy. That said, the architecture and the character models and animation are quite good. But, graphics schmaphics, what adventure gaming is all about is gameplay. Well, Syberia fails to deliver in my book. Maybe I've been spoiled by LucasArts classics like Monkey Island 2 and Day of the Tentacle, when adventure games had a clear hint->puzzle->solution progression, where even ridiculous puzzles were made sensible within the game's context. However, in Syberia, much like in The Longest Journey, a big deal is made in "realism," and grounding of characters in a world with rigid logic systems. So, instead of puzzles being amusingly outlandish, they become tediously so. Can't leave the first city without a few objects? Well, we won't tell you what they are, but you must seek them out and put them on a shelf as decorative items before the train will run. Ridiculous. Furthermore, much of the game's structure involves areas that are inaccessible until you traverse 2 minutes of superfluous screens, only to have someone tell you that you need to go back and fetch something from an area that has now just magically opened up. The dialogue is another place where the game suffers. Maybe it's from incomplete translation that the game seems flat, but it's more likely due to the fact that the game takes itself so seriously. Let's face it: no computer game is going to win awards for its script. Most games get around this by focusing on humor. In fact, EA's Case Files of Sherlock Holmes and the Gabriel Knight Series are the only two examples that come to mind that managed to succeed in being engaging without employing a lot of humor. Quite simply, the story in Syberia is absurd, but the game vehemently refuses to acknowledge that. Much like The Longest Journey, the only feeling the story seems to arouse in me is fatigue. The game also suffers from poor pacing. There's too much filler in this game. Too many empty screens, too much backtacking over said empty screens, and practically zero interaction with the environment. The lack of interaction just makes the game feel like an slideshow that depends on your mouse clicks. Every now and then, I want to be able to click on a non-essential object and have the character comment on it. The fact that interaction is limited to essential objects makes the game simple to figure out. Coupled with its relatively short length, Syberia is not a great adventure-gaming value. The sound in the game is competent, with decent voice acting and sound effects. The music--when there is some--is good, but it's basically limited to four themes, which repeat endlessly. Snore. I realize what others were trying to do when reviewing Syberia... as a person who entered into PC gaming because of adventure games, I want to see them live on as badly as the next guy. But, we shouldn't be encouraging stuff like this, which downplays all the clever interactivity that made aventure games a PC staple a decade ago. All this game is is a third-person Myst with dialogue... need I remind you that Myst was not good for adventure games. If you're an adventure die-hard, I guess there's no way I can dissuade you from Syberia, except to say that if you're a purist who grew up in the LucasArts/Sierra heyday, you will likely be let down by Syberia. If you're new to adventure gaming and want to check out truly great games that will run on your newer OS, check out Grim Fandango and Curse of Monkey Island. Both can still be found on the discount racks at your local PC gaming store.