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Game Review: Syberia II

Unlike the previous adventure game series I just concluded, I actually remember exactly what happened when I played the first Syberia years ago.  In comparison to the Still Life series, Syberia’s story is pretty self-contained, which can certainly be to a game’s favor.  Even if I don’t remember every single character’s name, I remember what happened &, most importantly, where the game left off.

250px-Syberia2

Syberia II picks up almost immediately after the events of Syberia.  In the first game, we played as Kate Walker, an attorney from New York, who travels to Europe to finalize the takeover of a toy factory, only to learn that the owner has just died, & that a brother no one knew she had is now heir, meaning Kate must track him down to go through with the deal.  Thus begins Kate’s strange journey through automatons and half of Europe as she follows Hans’ trail.  At the end of the first game, Kate meets Hans, now an old man, & they begin the final leg of their journey to find Syberia, a mystical land far to the north where mammoths still live.  Thus their journey concludes by the end of the game.

As with Microids other games, Syberia 2 is a point-&-click adventure game with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure.  As one might expect, traveling through the frozen wastes of Russia is no easy task, & numerous obstacles arise that only Kate seems inclined to solve, either by collecting the right item to unlock progress or reading clues in the area to solve some mild puzzles.


20170909121948_1Narrative: Although the first Syberia already had a pretty tightly focused story, Syberia 2’s narrative is even more self-contained, which I appreciated.  The story, settings, & events that unfold are more cohesive & coherent.  I remember in the last game a strange interlude with a creepy guy who made us bring him a retired singer because he was obsessed with her, resulting in Kate blowing up the factory for them to escape, only to return to her train to find Hans.  Talk about a series of unfortunate events.  But Syberia 2’s plot is more focused, & the problems that arise during it make sense, & seem very natural.  For example, the game starts with Kate’s train having to stop for coal, & she ends up tricking some local thugs for gas to power the coal shoot generator.  Given that these thugs seemed a little too interested in her train, it doesn’t come as a surprise later when they steal it & Kate has to chase after them.  Similarly, it’s not a surprise when Hans gets sick (because he’s an old man in the arctic), so it makes sense that Kate has to seek medical aid from the local monastery.  This also means that the few characters we interact with have a real presence in the game.

The only odd thing is a little subplot involving Kate’s boss in New York sending a private detective to track her down, hoping to bring her home, because they clearly think she’s crazy.  It’s implied this happens because Kate’s mom is hounding her boss, which any proper mother probably would do.  My problem with this subplot, however, is that it goes nowhere.  We never see the detective.  He has no point in the story other than relaying what we already know to the family.  He even gives up the chase half-way through, thus having absolutely no impact on the story.  I feel like the developers were trying to build tension, like we’re supposed to be concerned Kate’s being pursued.  The cutscenes certainly look foreboding, with everyone standing shadowed & faceless.  But we know she’s not in any danger because they just want her to come home, being naturally concerned about the physical & mental well-being of a New Yorker running off with a crazy old man in search of a place that might not exist into the arctic.  So the entire thread feels pointless.  I feel like they either should’ve had the detective actually be an obstacle, or not tell us who he works for & just leave us paranoid about a guy following us around.

But, overall, Syberia 2 has a tight story that never loses sight of its goal & the story it wants to tell.  I know a third game came out earlier this year, but personally, I feel this entry did a good job of wrapping up the story.

Score: 4


20170907182755_1Mechanics: I’m running out of ways to describe point-&-click controls.  They work.  I appreciated the run mechanic, as there is quite a bit of backtracking.  I liked that items leave your inventory when they’re no longer useful.  And I appreciated that the icon would indicate when a selected item wouldn’t work for a particular puzzle.  It really saved a lot of time from randomly trying everything.  I would just see the interact icon crossed out & move on.  I also never felt there was a time when I didn’t know what I was doing.  Even if I didn’t have the items I needed to progress, I usually knew what my goal was.  And there were no great leaps in logic, meaning I generally knew what an item would be used for, & everything made sense.

That being said, I did have one, at times, significant problem.  While generally what you can interact with is obvious due to subtle visual cues, there were a few times when I had to pixel hunt because nothing stood out.  And most frustratingly, at one point I had to look up a video because I knew what I was looking for but couldn’t find it.  Turned out the item in question had a very small hitbox, & looked completely like the rest of the background.  That did annoy me, but that only happened maybe twice in the entire game.

Overall, besides a few irritating pixel hunts, I thought Syberia is the perfect example of point-&-click puzzle solving done right.

Score: 4


20170909122314_1Aesthetics: Syberia 2 originally came out in 2004, so the character models are a bit dated & jankey, but not distractingly so.  The cutscenes fare bit better, although I couldn’t help laughing at times at their stretchy faces.  There were a few uncanny valley moments, especially with more bombastic expressions.  The backgrounds have an appealingly soft watercolor look to them, making me think of the paintings on postcards.

The voiceacting was decent, although there were a few suspect accents, & the actually acting felt reasonably natural.  The music all had the same soft quality as the backgrounds, subtly adding to the slower pace of the story.

Score: 3


Replay Value: Low.  I can’t see a point in playing the game more than once, as there’s nothing new to be seen on a second playthrough.  And you can watch the cutscenes after you’ve unlocked them if you really want to experience the story again.

Score: 3


Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: With its focused story, reasonable logic & streamlined mechanics, I think all but the most jaded gamers will find some enjoyment in this slower-paced adventure game.  It’s not long, & will leave players satisfied in the end.

– GamerDame

[youtube+https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA64GHJNyuc]

Title: Syberia 2
Console: PC, PS2, XBox, Android, iOS, PS3, 360, Switch
Rating: T
Developer: Microids
Publisher: Microids
Release Date: March 30, 2004

 

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Okami HD Coming For Christmas

As frustrating as the slew of re-releases can be, sometimes they bring back games that were criminally underrated, or that we simply missed the first time around.  I’ve previously talked about being excited for Shadow of the Colossus being updated for the PS4, but it now appears I’ll have something to sink my teeth into before then.

A friend had turned me on to this story, so it was no shock hearing about Okami getting an update for the latest console generation.  I was surprised, however, to see it coming out so soon, as GameNewOfficial just uploaded the official release trailer for the update.

For those unfamiliar with the title — which wouldn’t surprise me given Okami’s moniker of “least commercially successful game of the year winner” — Okami was a game released during Wii/PS2 era, where players take the role of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, returning to earth in the form of a white wolf to rid the land of encroaching darkness.  To aid in this purpose, the game features a unique brush mechanic where you can pause the game to draw ink on the world.  Depending on your brush strokes, you can slice through obstacles, make trees bloom, place bombs, & an assortment of other spells.

While not open-world, the land of Nippon is a vast, varied land with lots of places to explore, secrets to uncover, & people to help.  The best way to think of it would be to imagine Legend of Zelda, but with Link replaced by a dog.  It’s fun, quirky, & beautiful.  The game already looked good before, with its striking cell-shaded, watercolor style that harkens back to its roots in ancient Japanese mythology.

I already own the Wii version, but I do plan to picking up the re-release, mainly out of hopes that removing motion controls will make it a bit easier to play.  For insight into what I’m talking about, just read my post on Calligraphy & the Wii Don’t Mix.  But, this time the game is being released on PS4, XBox One & Steam.  Some reviewers in the past said the Wii handled better, but I have a hard time believing that.  Random spastic flails will never be easier than pressing one button.

Okami HD is slated to be released on December 12 of this year.

– GamerDame

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