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Xbox Review - 'Syberia'

by Jordan Van Nest on Sept. 26, 2003 @ 2:22 a.m. PDT

The owner of the factory, Anna Voralberg, has just died. The heir to the factory, Anna's brother, Hans, who is a genius inventor, has been missing for decades, lost somewhere between the Alps and Syberia. Kate must find this enigmatic man to finalize the deal, but in her journey from the West to the East, she will progressively discover and understand the reasons which have made Hans leave his family and never return.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Microids
Developer: Microids
Release Date: July 29, 2003

Buy 'SYBERIA': Xbox | PC

The quiet wind rustles through the streets as the gray morning air hangs silently still. All is quiet. The gentle wind slowly drags a leaf across the cobblestone street. There is a feeling to this place, a feeling hard to describe: a feeling of mystery and suspense, a feeling that you just can’t forget. There seem to be unanswered questions floating in the very air of this place. A glance at a nearby building reveals old scars, cracking with age. The history of this place seems to be written on the walls, a history which begs not to be revealed. A single bell can be heard, echoing through the abandoned streets, as a mass of dark clouds slowly shift over head. Welcome to the mystery and adventure that is, B. Sokal’s Syberia.

In Syberia, you are a young ambitious lawyer sent on a fairly standard assignment. When the duty of handling the sale of an old automaton factory is handed to you, you expect a short, straightforward deal, nothing short of easy. Little do you know that your journey into the alpine valleys will immediately become a complex tangle of lies, deception, and mystery. As the plot continues to twist, you will begin a journey that will change your life forever.

Syberia is a very unique game. Recently ported to the Xbox, Microids was hoping to continue the tremendous success it had from the PC release. As with all ported games, there are many questions that arise, like “Will anything be lost in the transfer?” “How will gamers respond?” and “Will any problems arise with the new version?” At first glance, I was very excited to play this game. Knowing that many consider Syberia to be one of the greatest adventure games of all time, I was highly skeptical and wanted to experience the game for myself. In the end, Syberia is definitely a remarkable, satisfying game which will be able to stand up to just about all games of its genre.

As with many games, there were many things I enjoyed and several things I did not. Tossed into a small town deep in the alpine valleys, you will have to search buildings, question residents, and uncover clues which will progress you further on in the story. Almost immediately after starting this game, I discovered my main complaint. First off, almost every screen in the game is at a fixed camera angle, which means that no matter where you move on the screen, the screen will not move at all. Moving off screen results in the game loading another fixed camera angle so that you can continue on. In addition, since the camera never moves or zooms in, there are many times where it will be very difficult to navigate your character. Sometimes your character is so small on the screen that you can barely even see her. And to top it off, the moving controls are anything but good. However, after a little while you will eventually become used to them. The bad controls mix with the fixed camera angles to create a fairly annoying problem. However, this problem is only a mild hindrance and will not drastically affect your gaming experience.

There were many things I enjoyed about the game. For one, I thought the storyline was excellent. What starts out as a simple mission soon turns into a complex web of details and mysteries. Throughout this game, you will constantly uncover new clues which will help you continue on your journey, and advance the plot. A game with this type of storyline is truly a pleasure to play, as it always keeps you guessing and will have you wondering until the end. I also really enjoyed the gameplay. This game is centered around investigating and discovering clues, and I thought the system the game used fit perfectly. As you walk by an item that can be manipulated (looked at, used, taken) a small icon will appear on it. Once you see an icon, pressing the action button will allow you to view, take, or manipulate the chosen item. I thought this was very effective since it didn’t make the constant searching tedious. Another great thing about this game is the locations. There are four huge locations in this game, ranging from the original toy factory to Syberia. With each new location comes new clues and new twists. Overall, Syberia is a game with only a few minor annoyances, but a game which will be enjoyed by most everyone.

Graphically, I was very impressed. Though the game operates with fixed camera angles, the graphics seem to make up for it. Smooth textures, and realistic figures are very helpful in a game such as this. I thought the graphics of the different locations were also done very well. You can definitely notice the difference between each place that you visit. No two rooms are the same, and all of the buildings appear unique. I did have a few problems such as getting stuck in a door, but these were very rare. Syberia’s graphics truly add to its gameplay.

The sound in Syberia was excellent as well. I enjoyed the soundtrack and also enjoyed the discretion that was used when playing various songs. Each song was hand-picked for the particular moment, and nothing was just thrown in. Overall, this really helps add to the mood of the game. Also, I thought the voices were done very well. Not only were they very clear, but they actually sounded genuine and easy to believe. This is not always the case in games of this type. In addition, I believe that every other sound in the game was carefully selected and was used at the correct time. The sounds of this game truly create a mood that many games just do not have.

It is a very impressive game which will dazzle and delight people of all ages for many years to come. The storyline, gameplay, graphics, and sound all combine to create a truly remarkable game. Any adventure fan will quickly fall in love with this title, and I think most anyone will be able to enjoy it. This game just seems to capture the element of mystery and stimulates our curiousity. Many will probably find that they are unable to put this game down, due to the ever-changing plot. I would definitely recommend buying this game, as it may even have some replay value. If you decide to rent this game, you will probably spend just as much as if you bought it because it takes a lot of time and thinking to complete this game, and patience is a must. In the end, Syberia has truly continued its legacy onto the Xbox.

Score : 8.0/10

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