While the storyline and visual design of the game excel, it fails in nearly every other area.
Syberia is not a great game by gaming standards of the year in which it was made. Worse; it's not a great adventure game, by adventure game standards of twenty years ago. That isn't to say it's awful, just that it's not great in so many ways that I could not in good conscience give it a respectable overall rating. While the storyline and visual design of the game excel, it fails in nearly every other area.
The scene transitions are clunky and frustrating, the music - while good - sometimes gets repetitive, and most of the characters are annoying. The game is also far too short, and it ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger at around the point in the story where most games would just be starting. By cliffhanging standards, this one wasn't even a hill-leaner. I was left caring less about the fate of Kate Walker than I was about the contents of my used hanky, which I checked often throughout the frustratingly slow animation sequences.
Don't get me wrong now, the game has an original storyline - by gaming standards - but it ends when the protagonist and the old guy you've been searching for go off to find mammoths in a clockwork train. Perhaps I missed the mammoth obsession as a boy, but I wasn't exactly blown away by the concept of finding such a comparatively ordinary extinct species. That said, Kate's personal life - which is revealed by a series of intermittent phone conversations - is partially riveting, and there are moments where the storyline teases you with something perhaps a little beyond the realms of normalcy, but in general, I remained uncaptivated.
Unfortunately, another gripe I had with the pretty Syberia was that even as an adventure game it fails in the one area it should really succeed: puzzles. The only times I found myself stuck were when the scenes were so confusingly presented that there was some hidden area off to the side where no area should be. I was reminded again and again as to the superiority of full-3d, opposed to fixed-camera 3rd person perspective.
Which, of course, leads me to the discussion of the graphics in general. I must admit, despite the frustrating camera choices, I was blown away by the imaginative art of the game. Sure, the character models were dated and poorly animated, but the scenic backdrops, robotic / clockwork theme, and cut scenes were quite simply astounding. My compliments to the design team.
The game would most appeal to those new to the genre as it involves a system where it's "impossible" to die or get stuck (even though I got stuck because of the aforementioned poorly coded scene transitions) and a story that focuses heavily on the emotions and personal life of the main heroine. I thought up a new term while playing this game; 'chick-click'. Which isn't meant as an insult to women, but instead to men, as men are mostly only interested in blowing things up and killing tons of aliens. So if you're a guy, I'd steer clear of this one unless you have a slightly more sensitive, intelligent side. And even then you might not like it. I mostly didn't.
Based on the the Mooncalf Reviews scoring system as shown on this blog post:
> > Storyline: 3/5
Some very nice ideas, and often artfully told, but it's essentially a tale about a robot factory and some guy obsessed with mammoths, and as far as subject matter goes, that's not the most riveting imaginable.
> > Compellability: 3/5
Kate's personal life is the most compelling of the plot twists in the story.
> > Characters: 3/5
Some well crafted characters, but also some very annoying main ones.
> > Originality: 3/5
Gets points for originality simply because games rarely focus on such a subject matter that was devoid of violence, which I thought was quite brave.
> > Art: 5/5
Excellent designs for the automatons, and some very pretty backdrops. It's a shame most of them were static, and the game suffered through lack of a fully 3D environment.
> > Dialogue: 3/5
Excellent voice acting, but some of the lines given to the characters are uninspired and sometimes unrealistic.
> > Music Score: 3/5
Despite some nice melodies and – more importantly – the usage of silence, the music is repeated a little too often.
> > Fun: 1/5
Seldom have I been so bored while walking from scene to scene in a game. The only fun I had was with the cocktail maker.
> > Freedom: 1/5
Set, methodical adventure game with no alternative methods to solving puzzles.
> > Lifespan: 2/5
Even for an adventure game, it ends far too quickly.
> > Multiplayer: 0/5
No multiplayer support.
Total Points: 27
Gamespot converted rating: 5.5