I’ve had my eye on Syberia for a long time, since the game & its sequel came to the XBox, but I never got around to them. At least not until my recent adventure game itch started acting up.
Syberia is a pure adventure game that, while being set in the modern world, has heavy surrealist elements. The protagonist is Kate Walker, a business attorney who travels to the strange town of Valadilene to handle the take-over of a unique toy factor from the elderly owner. However, things quickly become more complicated than planned when the owner dies & leaves the factory to her younger brother… who supposedly died decades ago. In her will, Anna reveals her family’s shame: her brother Hans didn’t actually die, as he father made the town believe. The boy had become mentally handicapped after an accident, but gained a brilliant mind for building mechanical devices. But he chose to escape their father’s iron grip, causing their father to declare him dead & leaving Anna to inherit the family business. And now that Hans in the owner of the business, he’s the only one that can sign the take-over, thus leading Kate on a journey into Siberia, Hans’ last known location.
From the get-go, Syberia blends the modern & the fantastical when the very first scene in the game is a group of automatons carrying Anna’s coffin to the church. These automatons play a heavy role in the game. Rather than being robots, they’re spring-based constructions, yet some of them do possess a sort of consciousness. They lend a sort of steampunk vibe to the game, which is something that’s always fascinated me. For some reason I find the idea of gear-based machines more interesting than computer-based ones. Seeing the way the game blends these automations into the world is pretty interesting.
But of course the draw of any adventure game is solving puzzles, & so far Syberia has done a good job of combining exploration of the world with overcoming obstacles in a way that feels more natural than some games. Adventure games often get bashed for their weird logic, but Syberia has managed to avoid this for the most part. If you explore the environments & pay attention, it makes sense what you need to do next. But the solutions can be a bit roundabout. Here’s an example:
In the second town, Kate’s clockwork train winds down. The solution is as follows: find the grapes to feed the cuckoos to gain access to the ladder to reach the mechanical eagle to get the cuckoo egg to balance the scales to open the door to repair the bandstand to get the money to pay the barge to tow the train to the winder.
If you explore & talk to people about everything, it should become clear at least what you’re trying to do.
I have to say I like Kate’s character. She’s not some superhero. She’s just a lawyer who’s dedicated to her case but things (& people) keep standing in her way. And although she expresses frustration at so many things blocking her way, she remains optimistic and dedicated to seeing her job through. In a word, she’s normal. And because of that, I find it easy to empathize with her. Especially when she keeps getting phone calls from her demanding, unreasonable boss, her oblivious mother & her nagging husband (or boyfriend, it’s never stated if they’re married). I just want her to say, “I’m a little busy roaming the Russian countryside, I’ll call you later!”
And I have to say, although the game is over a decade old, I’m impressed with how well the graphics have aged. Yeah, the characters are a little jagged. But the backgrounds look really nice. They have a sort of water painting look to them. They look really soft & detailed.
I’m looking forward to what other puzzles Syberia presents me with & their uncovering their strange solutions as the game goes on.