BOTHERER ARCHIVE
the writings of a mind

Title: Syberia
Genre: Adventure
Big Word: Dysbelief
Strap: John Walker Gets Half Decent Game To Review Shocker

Iím not sure if my heart can take it. Iím all confused. One second the world appears to fit together, the next, it all falls apart. The game arrives, itís been aimed at a French market, itís from the recently deceased Microids, and hey, itís an adventure game in the twentieth century Ė there really isnít any room for doubt. It should suck. Surely?

It gets more impossible. Hereís the pitch: you play a New York lawyer, visiting a small French town to sign a deal to buy a clockwork toy factory Ė but it seems thereís an heir somewhere, and your job is to follow the trail of clockwork clues leading you towards him. Every single outward symptom of the epidemic disease that sweeps through the adventuring community is there. No doctor in the land would offer even a glimpse of hope.

And yet, glimpse.

Syberia is, wait for it, not that bad. In a world that hadnít contained Broken Sword, The Longest Journey, and Gabriel Knight, you could go so far as to call itÖ good. I can justify these radical claims, honestly I can.

Without any room for doubt, Syberia is by far and away the best looking adventure game ever created. Every single background is so lovingly painted that you wonder if itís an enhanced photograph, but realise it isnít when you see a flock of birds fly overhead, and the waterwheel gently turning in the distance. And you realise that itís far prettier than any photograph could ever be. And living inside these breath-thieving sets are near-flawless 3D character models, with intricately detailed faces, clothes, and movement. Let there be no mistake Ė this is a gorgeous, gorgeous looking game.

But as we all know, itís personality that counts: The apparently twee story opener immediately reveals itself to be a tragic tale of a broken family, and their secrets that have remained hidden until the very recent death of your client. You are charged with the responsibility of seeking the missing son, and heir to the townís most important industry, across various semi-realistic scenarios. In a proper point and click environment. Score.

Even the puzzles work. It occasionally slips into the annoying wild goose chase mentality, but aside from this, challenges are pleasingly old-fashioned Ė a bit daft, in that lateral-logical way. Get the test-tube holder to get the egg to balance the scales to start the bandstand. That sort of thing.

All told, Syberia wouldnít stand out if it had been released ten years ago Ė it doesnít reach much beyond "above average" - but in the mire of the current adventure releases, this is a diamond in a dungheap. Thereís a chunky story, a decent set of characters, and a quite remarkable attention to detail. And itís just so stunningly gorgeous.

Margin Note:

"IíM ON THE CLOCKWORK TRAIN!"

A really entertaining idea is the cell phone. You can use it to call your employers at critical moments, but it makes for much more fun when you irritating mother calls, or you increasingly pissed off boyfriend demands to know when youíre going to be home. And it happens infrequently enough to prevent its becoming annoying. Mobiles in games Ė they are now officially everywhere.

Verdict:
 An astonishing shock Ė a playable adventure that Lucasarts didnít make.

Score:
 78%

Tech Specs:

Publisher: Microids
Developer: Microids
Minimum System: PII 350, 16Mb 3D card, 64Mb RAM, 400 Mb HD
Recommended: PIII 500, 32 Mb 3D card, 128Mb RAM, 1.1Gb HD
Multi-player: No
Web Address: www.syberia.info