Originally released in 2002 by Microids, Syberia quickly became a shining star in the gaming world. Fans around the world fell in love with the timeless story effortlessly woven by Benoit Sokal. Gamers were transported into an almost magical world that captured the imagination and evoked emotions not expected to be experienced in a game. The realization that a game could be so infinitely beautiful gave gamers hope for the future.
The game comes with 2 CDís. Even though there is a full install, the CD is still required to play the game. The game did crash once in the Valadilene train station when going from the ladder directly into the train. Not sure if this was experienced by anyone else. However, there is an alternate route that can be taken to avoid this. Other than the one crash, no other problems were encountered. This is a classic 3rd person point and click adventure complete with the standard cursors for examining, picking up and using items. A yellow highlighted cursor denotes another area to explore. Inventory is accessed at any time with a right click on the mouse.
You play as Kate Walker, a smart and sassy lawyer from New York sent to a small town in France to seal the deal on a toy factory takeover. Valadileneís proud history in intertwined with the Voralberg Toy Company whom since the 17th century has been mastering the creation of Automatons. Automatons utilize complicated clockwork mechanisms to function and while they look amazingly like robots, one dares not refer to them as such. Such a statement would be considered sacrilege in Valadilene. Currently, the factory is being run by Anna Voralberg, the last remaining Voralberg family member.
It is a dreary, rainy day when Kate first arrives in Valadilene. A sad scene awaits her. It seems she has arrived just in time to see an odd sight. Trudging over the hill with an automaton drummer boy leading the way, she watches what seems to be a funeral procession. Kate discovers that the town is in mourning. Their beloved Anna has passed away. Although provisions had been made in case of this event, Kate has a surprise in store for her. Fearing death was upon her, Anna revealed a startling revelation in a final letter to the town notary; the existence of another heir to the Voralberg estate. Annaís brother Hans, long thought to be buried in the family tomb, is alive and somewhere en route to Syberia in search of a legendary mammoth creature.
Anna has been communicating with Hans through the years with voice cylinders played on a music box. Kateís discovery of the music box in the Voralberg factory provides the first of many flashbacks providing insight into the elusive Hans. We watch as Hans, bent on retrieving a prehistoric mammoth doll from a hidden cave, falls to the floor of the cave suffering irreversible brain damage. In Annaís diary we find that while his genius for automaton creations is intact, he has lost touch with reality and has trouble functioning in the world which he was born into.
Tracing Hansí steps will require an innovative form of transportation. Enter the automaton train which has been built over the years by Anna (at the direction of Hans) in the hopes of reuniting with Hans one day. How in the world are you going to be able to commandeer an automaton train? Never fear. You have Oscar. Oscar is an automaton who was built for the sole purpose of driving the train. Letís go over that again. His sole purpose is to drive the train. Try as you might, donít expect Oscar to be providing any additional assistance on this journey. Oscar is all about regulations and rules. In fact, Kate ends up running around like a madwoman trying to fulfill all the rules and regulations to just get the train moving at all.
Traces of Hansí handiwork reveal themselves all along the trail as Kate meets a myriad of quirky characters. Travel to a prestigious university located in Barrockstadt and deal with 3 stooge-like bumbling university rectors. Then, itís off to Komkolzgrad; a desolate and deserted industrial city run by a madman who will test the limits of your patience. Visit a now defunct Cosmodrome run by an alcoholic Colonel as you desperately search for transportation to your next destination. Finally, visit Aralbad; a once famous relaxation resort for the high class population; where you meet up with a retired opera singer who you must convince to help you.
The voice acting for Kate is done magnificently as is the character rendering. Her personality shines through her voice. It is a joy to listen to Kate and see her facial expressions. Oscar is amusing and infuriating at the same time with his lack of help and constant referral to Kate by her full name: Kate Walker. Throughout the game, we get glimpses into Kateís personal life through cell phone calls. Mr. Marson (Kateís boss) is done pretty well. He is not a pleasant man and this is reflected in his phone calls. Dan, the fiancť, was not done so well. Honestly, youíll wish for Kate to end their relationship just so you donít have to hear his voice again. The same goes for Olivia. They just did not sound realistic. Another odd issue is the lack of accents for some of the characters. Despite the fact that you are in the French Alps, most of the locals sound American. Having visited the French Alps years ago, the only encounter of an American voice was my own. Only Helena and Serguei have an accent and to be honest, Sergueiís accent sounded as though he was from 3 different countries. Keep in mind that this game is dialogue heavy and is reminiscent of The Longest Journey in this respect.
As for graphics, words almost cannot describe just how glorious this game is. Each cut scene is a cinematic delight worthy of animation awards. Flashbacks are displayed devoid of color as though we are watching an old black and white movie. The backgrounds are rich with detail and will invoke feelings of wonder. Sometimes it is the less than obvious details that are the most impressive. As you stand in front of the University, four huge elephants stand on each side of the steps beckoning you forward. If you walk to a different location in the complex, you can see the elephants from a side view in the background looking just as good as they did from the front. The desire to visit places such as these are strong. Itís a similar feeling to reading a Harry Potter book and wishing there was such a place as Hogwarts.
The musical score is quite impressive as well. There is definitely a Syberia theme song here. You will hear it often throughout the game in a variety of tempos and it is blockbuster film worthy. Travel to new locations is always accompanied by full bodied orchestral music starting quietly and building to an exciting full crescendo as the scenery whips by en route to a wondrous unknown destination.
The puzzles are intertwined with tasks Kate must perform. At each location, the train will need rewinding. It is up to Kate to beg, borrow, and barter in order to get what she needs. Regulations must always be followed for proper train operation. Paperwork is always a big issue (tickets, train releases, border permissions). It is a good thing that the environments are so beautiful because you will be doing a ton of running back and forth. The fact that you can get Kate to run by double clicking is extremely welcome. Kate also has to perform maintenance or just figure out how to work on the various contraptions Hans has created along his journey. Only one problem was noted with a certain drink recipe puzzle. Perhaps the translation was missed here, but Kate is verbally given a recipe including lime. Unfortunately, only a lemon can be found. Donít waste your time trying to find the lime as this reviewer did --- itís just a mistake. While each task is interesting and different, most are on the easy side. But, they all integrate well into the storyline. There arenít any off the wall puzzles that seem out of place.
If you enjoy a lot of dialogue, a lush storyline and fantastic graphics; by all means add Syberia to your collection. You will understand why Syberia became popular so quickly and how it still impresses four years later.
Final Grade: 96/100