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Syberia
  • Windows 95/98/2000/XP
  • Pentium 2 500Mhz or greater
  • Scalable install options (400-1GB disk space)
  • DirectX compatible sound and 3D video card
  • Official website: http://www.syberia.info

Being a lawyer can often result in unexpected journeys for clients, if the game Syberia is anything to go by. In this new adventure game from Microids, you play the part of Kate Walker, a young female lawyer sent to smooth proceedings for a factory takeover. Normally such matters are wrapped up in a day or two, but as you might have guessed, something crops up that forces Kate to investigate a bit further.
During your stay in Valadilene you realise that in order to complete the contract, you have to travel to a remote location and obtain a signature from the sole heir to the factory. At this point, you can sense the adventure is going to kick-in, as you are taken all over Europe in persuit of the 'Mystery of Syberia'.

Syberia is a fixed-backdrop adventure game that requires nothing but your mouse. The style that has succeeded and failed for so many games of this type returns, but in this instance it works like a treat. The player character (a pleasingly shaped female) is fluidly animated and unlike the backdrops, comprised of polygons. This is true for every character in the game, which helps you distinguish them from the backgrounds a lot easier.
Moving and giving Kate Walker orders couldn't be easier either. The interface is entirely mouse operated, and there's nothing awkward about it at all. Left mouse moves, examines, takes items and enters locations, whereas right mouse opens the inventory and with another click, the personal file which contains any letters/faxes. You even have a mobile phone to fiddle with, but entering random numbers or phoning someone when you're not suppose to will result in an engaged tone (or something to that effect). You don't have a large array of gizmos and gadgets, and a lot of the puzzles are solved locally - meaning you don't have to traverse large distances just to get one required item. Needless to say, you'll be using your brain a lot more than your inventory.

For an adventure like this though, you would expect the graphics to be rather nice. The backdrops in Syberia live up to any expectations you could have, they are simply beautiful. Quiet mountain villages to industrial factories to woodland locations, it doesn't matter. If it's one thing you won't get bored of, it's the locations.
The animations that accompany certain actions you've completed are also a joy to watch. Valadilene's main export was automatons, machines made of cogs and wheels that seemed to have a life of their own. You can see that the town became infatuated with them, since they are everywhere. Some of them are basic, while one you meet about 30 minutes into the game is substantially more advanced. You could say they have an eery feel about them, something I haven't seen since the second Thief game and it's mechanical creations.

The second thing I noticed about Syberia is the sound. If you walk into a street in a quiet village, everything you would associate with such a scene will be heard. Birds chirping quietly, the occasional person walking by and nothing else. Everything is nicely balanced in Syberia; it's a well thought out and excellently designed game.

There are a few things I would like to point out though. Adventures of this sort will not appeal to impatient people, or those with an action-orientated mind. Syberia is not like Blade Runner for instance, where you are required on occasion to avoid death and relinquish others of their life. Instead, Syberia is a true adventure, where nothing threatens your progress apart from your own mind. The puzzles range in difficulty with some being quite tricky, perhaps needing a lot of backtracking through the immediate area to check for things you've missed. Sometimes it does get a bit frustrating, as you want to progress yet cannot find anything you've forgotten. I suppose this affects all adventure games though , so it isn't Syberia's fault. Thankfully, the days of combing the screen with your mouse cursor are over, as interactive items have a large 'click area', meaning if something is useable, you can easily find it.

To be honest, writing a review about Syberia has been quite difficult. To write about a game that has a simple yet well-implemented concept, excellent sound and graphics, with only a few drawbacks has been quite challenging. There's only so much you can write about how nice the game looks and feels, and there isn't really much else. It's an adventure game, one that has reinstated my faith in the rendered-backdrop, point n' click genre. Instead of going futher, i'll let you decide whether to invest in the game and continue the story. After all, what's the point of adventuring if you've read it all beforehand?

8/10

Adventurous nature? Syberia is for you.
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