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Syberia

On any given day you’ll find dozens of companies being bought up, and apparently, these sorts of deals are rather easy to arrange. Disappointingly for yourself and Kate Walker, the supposedly simple acquisition of the Voralberg toy factory has turned out to be anything but. Not only has the principle owner of the company passed away suddenly before your arrival, but you’ve been alerted to yet another heir to the factory who’s been long believed dead. Unfortunately, he of course is not, which means you have to go find him, thus setting the events of Syberia in motion.

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Syberia, like any other point and click adventure game relies heavily on exploration and puzzle solving. Using the stylus, you can ‘click’ on various portions of the screen to direct Kate to walk to. Theoretically, the stylus should work perfectly as a mouse substitute but getting Kate to walk where you desire can often be a chore. It’s unclear if the problem is simply related to generally inaccurate stylus clicks or if the areas the game is programmed to allow you to traverse don’t match the backgrounds and locations. Either way, most of your time outside of dialogue is spent navigating, and if Kate isn’t walking in the directions asked of her, you’re very likely to leave areas unexplored.

Diluted?Originating from the Smartphone version of Syberia, Syberia DS is actually a port of a port. The Smartphone version saw a number of smaller cuts and alterations to the original title, which are also reflected in this version.Additionally, the pre-rendered backgrounds of Syberia can be quite difficult to decipher on the small DS screen. It’s not a regular recurring problem but you might find yourself missing certain areas because you didn’t recognize one portion of the screen was an exit leading to the next scene. Added to the imprecise stylus control it becomes extremely easy to miss locations, which will inevitably lead to you clicking all over each new scene to make sure there isn’t an exit or area you’re missing. Some of this grief could have been easily fixed with an exit overlay similar to The Longest Journey, which allowed the player to hold down a button to highlight all of the exits on any given screen.

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Another feature that Syberia desperately lacks is Kate’s ability to run. Walking from location to location easily becomes tiresome and if it happens to be when you’re stuck on a puzzle, it becomes extremely aggravating as you wait for Kate to traverse the scene. As a handheld game many players desire the ability to play in short bursts and the lack of a simple run makes it almost impossible to accomplish anything quickly in Syberia.

Other than hang-ups related to navigation it can be very easy to become stuck in Syberia. Occasionally when trying to interact with an object the game will prompt you to investigate somewhere else or speak to a certain character, but even then you may still hit a wall. Assuming you do find all the necessary items along your journey, Syberia doesn’t run into the problem many adventure games do by requiring the player to use the developers’ logic. Most puzzles can be solved intuitively and if all else fails by dragging one’s entire inventory over a trigger until something works.

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Despite the game’s numerous navigational issues, Syberia isn’t all bad. Thanks to some incredible art direction there is a real feeling of wonder as you explore and interact with the various automatons the Voralberg family were so famous for crafting. Even the human characters you’ll meet tend to have a sense of disconnection that might lead you to believe that they’re also products of the toy factory. In fact, a few of the characters you’ll develop more of a relationship with are conversed with solely through in game cell phone conversations, and though you may develop connections with these characters they remain unseen to you which further reinforces the feeling of isolation that Syberia delivers.

Although Syberia possesses a great premise and regularly intrigues with its story, the game always keeps you at arms’ length. You’ll struggle to find your way through its carefully automated world and you’ll begin to feel a level of disconnection, but not for the reasons the game would like you to. If you’re determined to see the purchase of the Voralberg toy factory finalized, you’d be better off accompanying Kate Walker on the unabridged PC version.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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