Realism and emotion - an uncommon combination
If you are reading this review, I will assume you haven't played Syberia
but are thinking about it. Let me say, adventure fans, you are in for a real treat! Not only are the graphics and music really, really wonderful, the story is a captivating and evolving tale.
I was disappointed with Microids' "Myst-like" game Amerzone
, and I am very pleased to tell you this game is a HUGE improvement. Not only is Syberia a 3rd person adventure, the mechanics of the game include everything I like: Easy install/uninstall, point-and-click interface, subtitles On/Off option, plenty of Save Game slots, and no disc swapping.
You'll travel to truly picturesque places where the atmosphere is alive with movement - water ripples, birds flutter, leaves blow in the wind - and the sounds of life are everywhere. The character you play is a lovely young woman named Kate Walker, a New York lawyer, sent to get a company buy-out contract signed. She moves fluidly through her surroundings and her actions are portrayed very naturally. You'd think you are watching a real actress rather than a rendered one.
The puzzles all center around "automatons" - cog, wheel and lever wind-up machines of old. None of the puzzles are difficult, and all of them are unique and well integrated into the plot. The owner of the toy company you seek was the inventor of automated toys most of which require a key or other metal part to work. (Another plus - NO maze, NO slider puzzles!)
In the midst of the beautifully rendered backgrounds plays gloriously orchestrated, classical music. When Kate accomplishes an important objective, the music changes to congratulate you. When Kate gets surprises by something, you receive different music. (Wait until you hear the opera!)
Sound effects of the automated machinery always sounded appropriate. In addition you'll hear Kate's footsteps going up and down steps, opening and closing doors, the flood of water gushing as you open a gate and many other normal sounds. These, in combination with the scenery, give you the feeling of actually "being there".
The voice acting is excellent and lip-sync is done very well. I noticed that most of the conversations do not give you a "head shot" of the other party. Therefore, lip-sync perfection was not required.
Only a few annoyances are worthy of comment. Those include:
1. Hard-to-see cursor changes on interactive spots.
2. Extra long load times for the cut-scenes
3. Too much travel in between locations to accomplish little things
The ending was totally satisfying to me, but I wasn't expecting it to happen so fast. I finished the game in a day and a half (with breaks, of course), and it left me wanting more.
The Bottom Line
I consider Syberia fantastic
- worthy of a "5 star" rating! The story is original and lifelike amidst an environment that is pleasant to explore. Puzzles are integrated well and easy to work (once you have found the proper parts). And your character evolves and grows during the course of her adventure.
By the end of the game, I actually shed a tear or two -- why, I began to care
about Kate! Only a handful of games I've played in my life thus far have actually evoked that kind of emotion.
I definitely recommend this game and anxiously await the sequel.