Anthony's Film Review
(Video Game, 2002)
A visually mesmerizing game featuring an interesting female hero...
The 2002 computer adventure game Syberia comes off the heels of another notable adventure game: The Longest Journey from 1999. The latter is a critically acclaimed game that features a likable female protagonist and takes the player into a fascinating setting. It is possible that Microids, the company that developed Syberia, was inspired by The Longest Journey and wanted to create a similar gaming experience for players. The result is a game that is not as good as The Longest Journey, but is still a beautifully made game overall.
While some adventure games begin with the protagonist in a difficult or otherwise unusual situation, Syberia begins with a situation that seems straightforward and all too ordinary. Kate Walker is a New York lawyer who comes to Valadilène, France, to oversee the purchase of an automaton factory. Basically, Anna Voralberg was the last person to own the factory before she recently died. Just as the sale is close to completion, Kate makes a startling discovery that complicates the whole matter: there is a surviving heir. Apparently, Hans Voralberg is alive and, legally, the person who must sign the necessary papers. But his whereabouts are unknown.
Hence, Kate goes on a search for Hans Voralberg. Her adventure continues through Valadilène and beyond to other places, including a university and an abandoned mine. She meets some quirky and interesting characters along the way, including Oscar the automaton whose programmed intelligence makes him remarkably human, and also deals with complicating situations that block the journey. I should also mention before I forget that this game is in the genre of steampunk science-fiction. Kate encounters plenty of machines with interworking gears, steam pipes, conveyor belts, and other complex components.
The gameplay itself is fairly simplified. Kate's inventory consists of various documents to pick up and read and various small items to pick up and use. It's not like other adventure games where the player's character carries so many items, even some overly large ones. In addition, the game's environment has a handful of hotspots to examine closely and interact with, not so many that you spend a great deal of time inspecting every square inch of the game screen. Yet, the game, while not terribly difficult, does require a bit of thinking to get past situational puzzles.
Syberia is a good game for sure, based on the gameplay experience as well as the voiceover cast and the gorgeous graphics. The main reason I cannot rate the game any higher is that the game is enough of a quick ending to conclude the game, but leaves things wide open for a sequel. Plus, the story of the game seems to involve more of getting past obstacles blocking the journey to find Hans Voralberg, though there are still enough nice moments related to learning more about this mysterious man. But don't let that stop you from playing this game. It's definitely far from being very mediocre or badly designed, and Kate Walker is a heroic role worth playing.
For more information about Syberia, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.
In addition, check out my review of Syberia II.