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Syberia

Developer: Microids | Publisher: The Adventure Copmany
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/01/02 | Genre: Adventure

You are Kate Walker, a business Lawyer coming to the town of Voralberg to negotiate for the Universal Toy Company to take over Voralberg Manufacturing. Upon arriving at this small European town in the middle of nowhere, strange robotic creatures are leading the way to a funeral. Rain pours to the ground as you sit and wonder what is going on. Soon you discover that what at first seemed like a simple task, will lead you on a lengthy adventure. Welcome to the world of Syberia, the latest title under the new DreamCatcher banner, The Adventure Company. Developed by Microids, this is one adventure game that all fans of the genre will want to pick up.

To start off, lets look at the obvious... The graphics are absolutely amazing. The opening cinema I spoke about above comes complete with rain. Not only is this opening cinema stunning to look at, but the rest of Syberia's cinemas are beautifully done. In the actual game engine, all details are present from puddles on the ground, to wrinkles in clothing. Characters in Syberia will move with realistic gestures. In addition, they will also move their heads and look at the player as they get close to them. Also, the game engine does not have any problems with clipping or pixel detection. This is quite amazing sine Syberia uses 2D backgrounds with 3D characters.

What is the price for these great visuals? 1.2 Gig for the full install, a recommended 500 MHz P3, and a 32 MB 3D card. However, running a 64 Meg GeForce, 512 DDR RAM, and a 1.4 GHz processor, the game slowed to a crawl at times when all the options were turned up to their highest setting. My recommendation is to try to run the game at the highest setting possible. If the game begins to get sluggish, turn down an option at a time until things speed up. The reasoning behind this is to get the best quality possible. However, if you do change the settings, you will need to reboot your machine in order to apply them. I can't say I remember the last time a PC title required me to restart my system in order to change the settings... however, it is only a minor annoyance you won't have to worry about once you have everything setup.

However, some minor annoyances exist. Backgrounds are very static at times. I would have liked to see trees move, grass be blown by the wind, streams of water flow, etc. However, to add a little variety to the static environments, there are a few birds that fly around the world. Regardless of this, I felt like the game world was not alive. But this has been a problem in most adventure games I have played. Especially since the majority of adventure games have 2D backgrounds.

The gameplay in Syberia is simple, yet elegant. In fact, the entire game can be used with just the mouse. A left click moves you around the game world. When the cursor changes shape, you can interact with that particular object. Also, when the cursor highlights, it will allow you to leave the current screen you are on. By using the right click, you can access your inventory. When in dialogue, you can right click to skip the current line of text and move on to the next. If you double left click, you can run in order to get to the next screen faster. When grabbing an item, like a brochure or a piece of paper, your character automatically opens it to read. If it is something you can't read, a small picture of it will appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen. This helps players better see their latest inventory acquisition.

Puzzles within Syberia are logical and fit nicely within the game. While there is a lot of "key hunting," it sure beats some of the strange puzzles found in adventure games like Myst and Zork Nemesis. If you do run into a puzzle you can't seem to figure out, there are a multitude of strategy guides on the Internet. Just do a search on Google.com for Syberia Strategy Guides.

I did run across a few annoyances during my gaming time in Syberia. One of the most irritating things is when the main character kept saying "No need to go down there;" when you don't need to go to a particular location. Couldn't they have given a little more variety? One would think so. Also, after saving a game, Syberia does not let you know if it has been successfully saved or not. The game simply returns back to the gameplay. In order to determine if the game has been saved, you must check in the "Load Game" section. Another negative thing about the save system is that you cannot name your saves. The saves have a date and time next to a screenshot of your current location to distinguish themselves from each other. Yet another problem I had was when quitting a game, you are not warned to save your game before quitting. While you are asked "Are you sure you want to return to the main menu," it would have been a much better decision to ask the player to save before returning to the main menu. Finally, I had a problem with the shadow effects in Syberia. At times, the shadows underneath the characters look like a big blob or black. This really stands out as an unrealistic element in such a realistic looking game.

Overall, Syberia is a great adventure game that should attract not only fans to the genre but also gamers who haven't experienced a rich adventure game before. While the slow pace and puzzles won't appeal to everyone, players looking for a rich story, will find satisfaction.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/30/02
ESRB Details: Mild Language, Use of Alcohol
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Screenshots for Syberia

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