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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Publisher

Microids

 

Developer

Microids

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q2 2004

 

 

- Absolutely gorgeous
- More adventure-game goodness
- Variety of puzzles
- Great soundtrack

 

 

- A little too much backtracking
- Story not quite as strong as the original
- Still have to search for hot spots

 

 

Review: Syberia II (PC)

Review: Syberia (PC)

Features: Benoit Sokal (Syberia II) Interview

 

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Syberia II

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

syberia 2 review         syberia 2 review

 

The adventure game is deadÖlong live the adventure game. Since Sierra got bought out and Lucasarts swore themselves to make endless Star Wars games, the beloved point ní click games of the late '80s and early '90s but become almost extinct. In America, anyway - leave it to the Europeans to pick up the slack, as the genre still holds some commercial pull over there. One of more notable releases by them was 2002ís Syberia, created by French comic book artist Benoit Sokal. While it doesnít quite the pinnacle of genius found in classics like Monkey Island or Kings Quest, itís a good meal for starving fans to enjoy.

The original game, released for the PC and at a discount price for the Xbox, starred Kate Walker, fancy pants lawyer from New York. Venturing to Europe to purchase an old, outdated automaton factory, she realizes that an heir exists, and thus she

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cannot close the deal. In her search for his heir, one inventor named Hans Vollberg, she gets swept up in the magic and mystery surrounding automatons, fanciful creations that are similar to robots, but operate with gears as opposed to computers. Unfortunately, automatons have become outdated and useless due to the marches of technology, but Kate (and you) find something magical

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about these creations. The first game ended with Kate catching up to Hans on his final journey to a mythical land known as Syberia - a summary video exists for those who never played the first one. This land is filled with blue grass and giant mammoths, and while most people think of it as a fairy tale, Hans is reasonably sure itís real. Syberia II picks up with Kate accompanying the aging Hans on his final journey.

For the most part, it's standard adventure game fare as Kate wanders through towns, talks to people, solves puzzles by running fetch quests or finding keys. The backgrounds are all prerendered, although all of the characters are polygonal models. Given that most of these types of games were meant for the PC, translating the interface to work with a console hasnít always worked. Syberia II falls to the same sort of problem. Kate is controlled with the analog stick, a task easier said than done given that there appear to be invisible boundaries preventing you from walking on certain locations. Which you be doing a lot, because Syberia II loves giving tasks that have you sauntering from one end of a given map to the other, then back again. The sizes of some of the maps are tremendous, so the very process of just getting anywhere takes several minutes.

 

syberia 2 review          syberia 2 review


But the interface problems donít end there. Whenever you walk next to something that Kate can interact with, a little icon in the lower left corner lights up. Finding the hotspot for anything proves to be an aggravating task of fiddling back and forth, and the game never tells you exactly what youíre targeting anyway. If you have two doors right next to each other, itís hard to tell which one Kate is looking to open.

Once you've come to grips with exploring it, you'll notice the world is finely detailed, with each town lovingly rendered in gorgeous CG, and this is probably the brightest point in the game. But this is where another problem with the game design creeps up Ė thereís no ďlookĒ command. Perhaps Iím too used to older games, but Iíve always really liked checking out bits of landscape or scenery to see what the character or narrator had to say about them. This is entirely absent in Syberia II. Worse yet, the world is filled with bizarre contraptions, and you have no way of knowing what they actually are without a description. Itís an incredible shame that such a visually deep world lacks such necessary details. Sometimes the high-res text can prove troublesome, depending on your setup, as the font is awfully small, especially the conversation options.

Much of Syberia II is spent talking to the denizens of the world. You'll meet tons of interesting and quirky characters, including the lovably neurotic automaton Oscar, but the protagonists are hardly involving. Thereís a lot of backstory involving Kate and her reasons for leaving her life behind to follow Hans that should be intriguing, but sheís an awfully bland person and doesnít seem to have any characteristics other than being an American and a woman. Hans, too, the nutty old inventor you spend the entire first game chasing after, comes off more as an craggy lunatic whoís following a dying dream. Which is far, FAR less interesting than one would expect from someone who invented the wondrous machinations at the heart of this series. The writing is competent, although not all it could be. The game, translated from French, comes off better than some Japanese RPGs, although it lacks the pizzazz of native English. The voice acting is also reasonably decent, although the stiffness of the text comes through a bit more when spoken.

If youíre a fan of adventure games, staying away from Syberia II is like refusing to drink water in the scorching desert because itís not cold enough. Theyíre so rare that even the average ones are worth playing, and this is definitely better than anything thatís come out within the past year or two (and well beyond the last Broken Sword game that came out for the Xbox). The retail price point of $20 certainly makes it worth it, as long as you can put up with the interface hiccups and the multitude of slow points. People interested in catching up on the glory days of the genre may be better served to pick up Curse of Monkey Island for the PS2 Ė longtime fans will at least find an amusing diversion with Syberia II.

- Kurt Kalata
(December 1, 2004)

 

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