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Syberia (Windows)

82
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Dave Schenet (130)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2003
Platform  :  Windows

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Summary

A very, very long movie. Or, an extremely short game.

The Good

The graphics and sound effects in this game were amazing. They combined to create imaginary, surreal, bleak environments that you could actually believe in. I found myself thinking, "Ya know, if there actually is some long-forgotten city of Barrockstadt or Komkolzgrad on an abandoned rail line, it probably would look a lot like this." Bleak. Grey. Run-down. Populated with small handfulls of slightly-eccentric inhabitants who take their unusual environments and the presence of advanced clockwork automatons for granted. As you progress towards your destination, the environment becomes more bleak and surreal.

My favorite example of this would be the Barrockstadt University. It's a massive, ancient, sprawling stone campus, yet there is a grand total of: three students, one professor, one groundskeeper/stationmaster, and three (three!) rectors.

None of them find anything weird about that, of course. Whether this lack of population is intended, or an oversight by the designers, I think it works to the game's advantage.

I also liked the plot-delivery method of Kate's cellphone. At certain points your character would receive calls from people in her life (her mom, or her boyfriend, or a coworker, or her boss.... and that's it. Not a very social girl, our Kate), and while these calls were often annoying, they do help one to understand the main character, and where she's comin' from.

As well as where she's going.

Unfortunately.... once you set aside the game-world itself and focus on the game's mechanics, there aren't many good parts left. The story was a bit far-fetched, sure, but still enjoyable. It's unfortunate that the presentation of the story was struggling uphill against the game itself.

The Bad

Well, looking back on it, quite a lot.

First, the voice-acting. Spoken lines rarely matched up with their subtitles. That's not too bad in itself, but on some occasions, entire sentences were dropped from the spoken dialog. There were a few pieces of information I could only find out by glancing at the non-spoken text before it vanished. Luckily, none of this information was actually critical. In addition, a lot of the voice actors sounded as if they were simply reading their lines out of context -- there wasn't much emotional weight added to lines that should have been spoken angrily, or happily, or what have you. It tended to break the fiction a bit.

Granted, in some of the cellphone conversations, Kate sounded... emotionally-dead. I'm still not certain if that's due to the overall bad quality of the voice acting, or if it was intentional during those times.

And speaking of dialog, you must speak to characters using keywords. Unfortunately, your selection of keywords is always extremely limited (to subjects like "Kate", or "Train", or "Hans" and such), and more times than I can remember, Kate would stupidly ask questions that *I* know the answer to, but *she* doesn't until *she* solves some lengthy puzzle, or talks to some obscure character.

Frustrating, to say the least.

The other big problem I had with this game, were the puzzles. They made logical sense, for the most part, but nearly all of them felt like they were cobbled together. And a very large number of puzzles required you to run from Point A to Point B, which is all the way across the city. Then run back to point A. Then back again to Point B. And back, and forth, and back, and forth..... This is how you don't design puzzles, guys.

Also, at the risk of giving spoilers, the ending disappointed me. A couple of facets of it were enjoyable, but there was all this buildup for a question over the course of the entire game, and you never find out the answer.

The Bottom Line

I dunno, to be honest. This game would have made a far better movie or cartoon than an actual game. Some people like "interactive movies" with puzzles grafted on; I certainly used to. It only took me a couple of days to complete; I think if this were a much longer game, I could recommend it.