Syberia is a point and click adventure game set in an imaginative alternative earth. It centres around a female protagonist, Kate Walker, a Lawyer who is trying to acquire a toy Factory from eccentric inverter Hans Voralburg. But when she arrive in Valadilene he is nowhere to be found and she has to pursue him. I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Some of it is exceptionally well done and other parts are done very badly.
The heroine of Syberia is Kate Walker, so called because she walks everywhere. Well. Okay, sometimes she can break into a light jog but Ms Walker has the slowest movement speed in any video game I have encountered and is particularly gingerly on stairs. This is a major drag-factor on the game particularly when many of the puzzles ask you to back-track and you are forced to traipse very slowly back and forth across the same scenery (it’s saving grace being that that scenery is often very pretty). If there was one mod I could ask for Syberia it would be to make Kate Walker move her goddamned ass! This would make the game a lot more tolerable.
“I can’t go that way” and “I need a key” are phrases you will hear a lot. You will then find yourself pixelhunting through large otherwise empty areas for that one hotspot that contains the item/button/thingamabob you need to progress. Some of the puzzles are blatantly contrived with the character refusing to do things they could very easily do (e.g. pick up a stick or shoo a bird) which just creates frustration as you go through an elaborate series of steps to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem.
Right so now I’ve ranted about what’s bad about it, what’s good about it? I played both games in the series so there’s obviously something…
In a nutshell it’s the story and the characters and the art. Some of the puzzles are really good too, particularly the ones that tie in to the story, characters and imaginative world they have created. The voice acting is largely solid with some that is dodgy accents but always entertaining. Obviously this will be a relief for those who don’t like to do a lot of reading, but everything is in text as well for those who like to play with the sound turned off. I’d keep the sound on though because the soundtrack is really nice and atmospheric and the sound effects are very organic.
The artwork, though dated, is very high quality and imaginative. The fact that it is a little grainy by today’s standards does not stop it from being beautiful. The steampunk-light world created by the syberia video game series is full of automata and automatons. One such is Oscar, the train driver, who is a big character. He is very amusing and lovable. Kate Walker starts out as a whiny wuss but this leads to a greater contrast and more satisfaction to her badass moments later in the series as she undergoes actual character development. Something that really worked was small cut scenes of her having conversations with characters ‘back home’ like her Mom, best friend and boyfriend. This made her feel much more real and brought out the characters inner monologue in a believable way.
So, worth it, if you are a patient gamer who likes adventure games and a good story. Apparently Syberia 3 is due out in 2016 continuing Kate Walker’s Adventures, but I am sure there will be a recap for those who did not play the first two especially considering the long wait! If is as good as the previous ones but with a Kate who can actually, y’know, run, it will be fantastic! Syberia 1 & 2 are hauntingly memorable, even with their flaws, but too frustrating to replay.