A Cool Adventure.
In the world of mega-mergers and corporate buyouts, AOLs and Time Warners, the Voralberg toy company is barely managing to stay afloat. In its heyday, the company created the grandest Automotons in the entire world. Now it wastes away, tired and lonely in the provincial town of Valadilene.
In despair, Anna Voralberg, president of Voralberg, decides to relinquish control to the Universal Toy Company. Kate Walker, a highly efficient lawyer, is sent to close the deal. Problematically, Anna dies right before Kate's arrival, opening and twisting a by-the-books transaction into a dawning mystery. Anna's long dead brother and the heir to the factory is still alive, and it's up to you to uncover the mysteries in the graphic adventure game, Syberia.
It's always a pleasure to check out a new PC adventure game, and even more so when the game is a pretty good one. Syberia's story is engrossing and keeps the player driven. You take more of an observer's role in the story rather than playing the role of heroine. Nonetheless, Kate Walker's character development and growth help to fuel the strong, intricate plot.
The controls are completely relegated to the mouse. If an object can be interacted with, the mouse icon changes accordingly. A right click will also bring up an inventory menu of accumulated items and documents.
Nearly every graphic adventure game features the problematic pixel hunt. You'll often get stuck because you're unable to make out a doorway hidden in the shadows or locate some tiny object tucked away in the corner. This forces you to dryly sweep your mouse back and forth across the screen to make sure all the hot zones are hit. It also makes you wander back and forth listlessly, second-guessing whether or not you "really" picked up everything in an area.
Thankfully, this occasionally frustrating item hunting is softened by straightforward and at times quite clever puzzle logic. A few require some unnecessary trial and error, but generally, the puzzles involve proper inventory utilization. It all hearkens back to finding those objects in the first place, which brings us back to the inherent pixel hunt. I'd also like to see more interactive objects rather than just lighting up the ones you can use. It would throw a much needed monkey wrench into the game and make you think that much harder about which objects you truly need and which are extraneous.
Conversation with other characters leads to dialogue trees. They repeat vital information, which is handy, but it's bereft of much life. Even a cursory remark like, "What? You're asking that again?" or "Listen closely this time!" would be a nice, easy way to update into more realistic dialogue.
The world of Syberia is artistically rich with beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds; not quite otherworldly, but full of enigmatic, unique visuals and clockwork machinery. It's reminiscent of certain French films, such as Toto the Hero (if you can find it, watch it! How many other movies have singing ashes?) or even bits from the more recent Amelie. The water and grass often looks photorealistic, which tends to make the buildings stand out as more obvious digital creations.
Most of Syberia's audio is environmental noise, but during pivotal points in the story, a short, melodiously haunting musical track will cut in. The voices are adequate, conveying proper emotion and translating a good feel for all the characters. You won't find anything too hammy or an over the top Jamaican accent from out of left field.
Point and click graphic adventures are few and far between, especially the good ones. The last one I reviewed was Jazz and Faust, which was utter drivel. Syberia brings all the classic stylings of the genre to the table and should make a good choice for fans. I'd be hesitant if you aren't already into adventure games, though, as the slower pace and lack of action might be dreary. Syberia will return as much as you are willing to invest - which makes it a much, MUCH better investment than AOL/Time Warner.