Release Date: European Release - June 2002, North American Release - September 2002
Note: Originally published 09 September 2002
In the past ten years this reviewer has played maybe 200 games, and reviewed about 50. I think I've played 95% of all adventure games produced in that time. Let's start at the ending of the review for once. This is, without question, the finest PC game I have ever played. If you have a pulse and are reading this now (duh!), GET THIS GAME! I'll repeat that: GET THIS GAME! ……now back to the beginning.
Four years ago I played a game entitled Amerzone, produced by Microids of France and based on the work of the very talented cartoonist, Benoit Sokal. It was a very worthy and enjoyable adventure game. Last year I read that Mr. Sokal and Microids were developing a new PC adventure entitled Syberia. I anticipated an Amerzone-style sequel or a similar offering. When given the chance to review this new game, I readily accepted. I was not prepared for what I got. This game is not anywhere close to the very enjoyable game, Amerzone.
We're in a whole new ballpark, fans. When I installed Syberia and started to play, I was truly shocked. Nobody warned me! The opening cinematic sets the climate for the game and I am here to tell you that it is magnificent. The gorgeous pre-rendered graphics, the animation, the musical scoring, the SFX were truly jaw-droppers. I've subsequently invited a few gamer friends over to watch the intro, and to a person, everyone has said "Wow, that looks like a movie, not animation". Its raining, and every drop of rain that splashes on the cobblestone street hits, and widens out in circular fashion. Holy cow! The musical scoring sounds like a John Williams effort for a major Hollywood film. I've played this intro over and over and am still awestruck at its beauty. This is a very special game.
Syberia is the story of the quest of a New York attorney (Kate Walker) to consummate the acquisition of a quaint toy factory located in Valadilene, France by an up and coming conglomerate, the Universal Toy Company. The factory has fallen on hard times and its technology has sadly become obsolete. Kate arrives in the alpine village of Valadilene only to see a funeral procession. The funeral, it turns out, is for the owner of the local toy factory. Kate checks in to the local hotel and subsequently learns of a next of kin of the owner - a Mr. Hans Voralberg, the deceased owner's brother. Hans has disappeared, and Kate needs to find him in order to do the deal.
Therein lies the plot. Kate must traverse miles of geography in order to, hopefully, find Hans. She starts in the town of Valadilene where the prominent industry has been the Voralberg toy factory. Here, they've made state-of-the-art automatons (sort of high level robots) - from wind-up toys to extremely high tech personal assistants. But unfortunately, the factory has suffered neglect and as a consequence has become somewhat obsolete. When Kate finds the factory, she finds a partially-created automaton named Oscar - the last automaton designed by the brilliant Hans. Oscar got caught up in the factory shutdown and needs feet. Off we go….Kate's first challenge. She dearly needs Oscar's assistance and therefore must build him his feet. That's just one "puzzle" in this locale. Once Oscar has his feet he can offer Kate transportation to her needed destinations. But wait, there are many, many "puzzles" Kate must solve in order to "boogie on." Challenging? Yep! Fun? You bet! Finally (whew!) all the parameters are met and Oscar becomes the conductor of a train which will take Kate to her next destination, Barrockstadt. This is a university town. Lots of cool stuff to do here. A highlight for me was a professor's audio-visual lecture. Very nicely done. Shucks, the train needs power. It won't move. Mr. Sokal has crafted here a wonderfully plot-driven series of "puzzles" to solve. FYI: almost all "puzzles" presented in Syberia are contextually woven into the story extremely well.
Next stop - Komkolzgrad. UGH - this is a very dark industrial city. Designed as a communist utopia, it has fallen into an abyss. Kate needs to get outta here. Diehard zealots abound and Kate and Oscar need to get a passport and split.
Finally, Kate and Oscar arrive in the former resort city of Aralbad. Cold and sterile, this idyllic coastal town was once a refuge for the communist elite. Now, yuck! However, it is here where Kate makes contact with some very important personae.
From here the game progresses to a very surprising and heartfelt climax. I've never played a PC game which had such a wonderfully rewarding ending. What a surprise!
Okay, on to the technical stuff. The game may be played completely with the mouse. Right-clicking brings up the inventory, gathered documents, cell phone, and complete menu. Saves? Unlimited. User friendliness and learning curve? You could start a rookie on this game. Graphics and animation are the best I've ever seen. The music is the best I've ever heard in a PC game. Game play? Fabulous. Story? The best I've ever seen in a PC game (yes, I loved TLJ also, but got more hooked on Syberia). Game stability: perfect. Cut Scenes: all are archived for your subsequent review.
End of review: please read paragraph one.
Final Grade: A+
Minimum system requirements:
Pentium II 350 MHz
64 MB RAM
400 MB free hard disk space
16X CD-ROM Drive
3D graphics card with 16MB RAM (DirectX 7 minimum)
DirectX compatible sound card