2002 Microïds
Designed by Benoît Sokal, Dominic Mercure, Patrik Méthé
Reviewed 2002 July 7

Rating -1 Linearity narrow
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time none

You are Kate, an American lawyer sent to a small town in the Alps to complete the buyout of the town industry: the making of mechanical automatons -- don't call them robots! Unfortunately, the factory owner died just before you arrive, so you must hunt down Hans, the heir, an eccentric genius who designs automatons. He hasn't been seen for many decades. His trail takes you across Europe into Siberia.

There are four main locales, with a half-dozen or so significant characters. Along the way, you keep in touch with home through your cell phone, and developments there add a little spice to the story. The characters, both live and telephonic, are simple but more than iconic. The main development is the uncovering of Hans' history and personality. Kate is supposed to develop as well, but, although you're told about how she has changed, it's not noticeable as you play.

The setting is more fantastic than it first seems. The automatons are clearly fantastic, but even given that conceit the world has a dreamlike ambience, a lack of logic. It's really a fairy tale, not an alternate reality.

The story's the thing, here, and the challenges are given short shrift. Play is linear, usually with narrow scope. Presented with a yellow lock, you look for and find the yellow key -- it's not that crude, but that's the level of difficulty. The hotspots can sometimes be a bit hard to find, verging towards pixel hunting, but not annoyingly so, once you realise the play style.

While the challenges aren't significant, they are well used in pacing the story. Together with copious triggers, the journey and backstory both progress steadily. Occasionally, the challenges are a bit crude, with some characters blatantly presenting quid pro quo bargains, but you'll be too swept up in the events to mind.

The main attraction is the design of the automatons and the architecture of their environments. The graphics are superb, showing off the lovely artistic design. The occasional music adds to the mood, and the quality voice acting doesn't break it. Even the 3D mannikin characters are well done, with puppetry that isn't distractingly bad.

The interface is simple in scope -- you can't combine inventory, or do anything more than use inventory items on environmental objects -- but it is well done, without excessive clicks or interface "noise". Game aside, it's a great piece of software.

While not much of an adventure game, Syberia is a good piece of interactive fiction. It's a good story well told, with an stunningly attractive presentation.

Note: Syberia takes place in the same world as Amerzone, Sokal's previous game. While some of the events of Amerzone are mentioned, they're really just in-jokes: there's no need to have played Amerzone to fully understand Syberia.

Related reviews:

  • Amerzone
  • Syberia 2
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.