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Syberia is a story-based adventure game from Montreal game company Microïds. It is the creation of author and art director Benoît Sokal, whose last successful game was Amerzone. There’s some slight story interplay between the two games, but Syberia is not a sequel to Amerzone.

It was released in June 2002 and has been successful enough to not only help revitalize the adventure game category, but to win the Adventure Game of the Year award. Its success ensured a sequel, Syberia 2, released in April 2004.

You, the game player, are Kate Walker, a successful New York attorney. Kate is thirty years old and hasn’t really seen much of life outside her somewhat controlled environment. She’s the typical up-and-coming urban professional, complete with cell phone to keep in close touch with her world.

As the game opens Kate arrives in Valadilène, a lovely remote village high in the French Alps, to finalize the takeover of a very old toy company. That company, the Voralberg Toy Company, was once famous for its intricate mechanical toys and life-like automatons. Time has passed, though, and the demand for their toys and automatons has dwindled to almost nothing. We learn very quickly that Kate’s law firm is impatient to complete the purchase of the factory for their client, the Universal Toy Company.

To do this, she must obtain the signature of the last surviving heir, matriarch Anna Voralberg. Things become a bit complicated when Kate learns that Anna has died shortly before her arrival in Valadilène. To make matters worse, it turns out that Anna may not have been the sole surviving heir. To find that heir, Kate must gather clues that lead to a journey across Europe. After she leaves Valadilène, she will visit three more “worlds” in the course of the game. Along the way, she will also discover a few things about herself.

The real attraction of Syberia is its fantastic graphics and animations. The four worlds you encounter during the game are incredibly detailed and textured; they were, for me, one of the best parts of the game. The sound effects are equally as excellent and fit nicely into the game, working tightly with the animations. Syberia’s creators didn’t skimp on music or voice talent, either. The melodies tend to stay with you for some time, and the voices (and accents) are just about right for the characters. Taken together, the sights and sounds really create almost a total immersion experience and you almost forget you’re playing a game.

Another excellent feature of the game is its cutscenes. Whenever something important or transitional happens, the entire sequence is automatically saved as a “cutscene”, so that it can be enjoyed as often as the player wishes. I found myself watching all of them again more than once.

As with most adventure-type games, Syberia contains many puzzles and you’re not able to move on without having solved them all in each world. Though they’re not as difficult or obscure as some games (notably Myst), I did have to refer to online hints a few times. It’s an easy game to finish, and you will want to work it through to the finish.

Of course, the game isn’t perfect. Sometimes the music tends to obscure the dialogue, making the optional subtitles almost a necessity. There are a few times when the plot of the story wears just a bit thin. Also, the ending seems to be a bit abrupt – but it does leave you wishing the game hadn’t ended quite so soon. The pluses outweigh the minuses, though, and at game’s end most people (myself included) would be happy to return to Syberia. I highly recommend it for anyone needing a short vacation from everyday life!


SOURCES

MobyGames. "Review - Syberia". <http://www.mobygames.com/game/sheet/gameId,6828/>. (August 2003).
Sokal, Benoît. "Syberia". Published in the US by The Adventure Company, <http://www.adventurecompanygames.com>.

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