Syberia: Kirk would love the adventure, Spock the logic, Scotty the mechanical puzzles and Bones the humanity.
Syberia is a narrative driven adventure game whereby you interact with items hidden in various locales, usually to unlock secrets or to operate whimsical machines that all enable Kate to continue on her journey to locate the mysterious Hans. Kate is a lawyer sent by her firm to resolve the acquisition of a toy factory but issues related to a missing heir result in this simple task becoming an amazing adventure as she embarks on a quest to track the elusive and mysterious heir down.
By way of background, I normally play historical shooter games, whether first or third person; stealth games, the odd RTS and of late open world games. My son is a devotee of RTS games with a bit of PS2 action gaming thrown in, my daughter plays RTS games and likes hidden object games (HOG) like the "I Spy" series (from Scholastic) and until recently my wife has been a non-gamer, apart from the odd HOG, but due to Syberia is now playing "Dracula: Origin", with me assisting. So it should be evident that Syberia is unlike any game we have played, individually or collectively, before and being fresh we all embraced it and indeed what fun Kate's fanstastical journey ended up being.
Firstly, Syberia is one of the most attractive games in terms of its visual scapes, due to Benoit Sokal's extraordinary vision and talents. While essentially serving as 2D backdrops for the 3D characters the images, in fact hand painted works of art, are spellbinding with an amazing level of detail. Our experience in HOG games was certainly handy in finding the clues and missing pieces of the various mechanical devices which Kate Walker needs to get working to allow her mission to progress.
However the numerous, at times quite cryptic, logic puzzles and engineering challenges benefited from our combined efforts and each of us had talents in one or more areas ... fortunately there was only one mouse between us, otherwise Kate would have been in a spin at times!
Syberia is set in the beautifully depicted, though decaying, world of what was Eastern Europe, from quaint picture postcard towns to immense Stalinist factories. The story is however not dystopian, although it has elements of "cyberpunk", it is more a fairytale suiable for all ages. If you like Miyazaki's anime features like Nausicca, Howl's Moving Castle or Porco Rosso you will really like this game ... it will bring out your inner child.
Syberia certainly tells a great story and our collective desire to find out what was to happen next, both in the main quest to find Hans and also the backstory of Kate's life at home and work, is what drove us on for many hours at a sitting. The interactive puzzles, and at times "one step forward, one step back" elements were almost always fun. While we occassionally had to peek at one of the numerous walkthoughs available to assure us the game was not stuck in a loop, we only really needed to study a walkthrough once in relation to making a cocktail for an aged songstress. That said, the game is intuitive and no puzzle was, in the end, illogical, whereas some of the puzzles in Dracula: Origin have needed more than a peek, especially the musical one.
Syberia is my first adventure game since the days of those DOS text adventures in the 1980s. One cannot compare Syberia to those games, either in look or gameplay, although its roots are obviously in such games. It is apparent after the experience of Syberia (and the concurrent one with Dracula: Origin) that I have finally succeeded in getting my wife interested in gaming ... so, Sherlock Holmes games, look out here we come!
So, if like me you are wondering what video game to buy your child or non-gaming partner as a gift by all means give Syberia a go. Both you and your child(ren) and partner will enjoy a great gaming experience. Soon we will be joining Kate aboard the clockwork train on her continuing adventures in Syberia 2.
OVERALL: My first adventure game and first one enjoyed by the whole family. Well worth getting and playing, especially if you enjoy challenging puzzles and intriguing fantastical tales. In my view, Benoit Sokal is to adventure games what Hayao Miyazaki is to anime.
BTW, in case you were wondering, Syberia has absolutely nothing to do with Star Trek ... but hopefully the tagline got your attention.