Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
Once in a blue moon a game comes along that is truly outstanding in every way, head and shoulders above the rest. Microids' Syberia is that kind of game. It is a consummate work of art... an unforgettable journey into a retro world of unsurpassed beauty and sound, with a fascinating story by renowned author Benoit Sokal that both delights and surreptitiously inspires. It's a fantastic tale with extraordinary characters. A tale borne of values and relationships from another era that strikes a responsive chord on an almost subliminal level, and makes us re-examine the wisdom of our modern lifestyle and ideals.
Kate Walker is the epitome of today's feminine ideal, and she thinks she has it all. She is young, intelligent and beautiful, and she is successfully juggling, cell phone in hand, a busy high-powered career, an attentive lover, and a close family and friends. She's an attorney for a prominent New York law firm, and she has been sent to a small town in the French Alps to simply get some papers signed for a pending sale because a large multinational toy company is buying an old automaton factory located there.
But soon after she arrives, she discovers that's not going to be as easy as everyone supposed. The old lady who owned the factory is dead! And now it appears that she may have had an heir, a younger apparently retarded brother who mysteriously disappeared many years ago. Everyone says that he died, and there's a tomb for him in the local cemetery. But there is strong evidence to suggest that he may still be alive somewhere, and if so Kate needs his signature.
Was he really retarded as everyone says, or an unrecognized genius of his times, perhaps an 'idiot savant'? His creations were incredible... complicated robot-like mechanical automatons, many life-sized or larger, that moved and worked, with some that even spoke. And if he's really still alive, how will she ever find him? There's a persistent rumor that he left for parts unknown way back in 1938... in search of wooly mammoths! Do such creatures really still exist?
This is a state-of-the-art, 3D, 3rd person, point & click game, with a smart cursor, inventory and subtitles. The interface and controls are practically self-explanatory, indeed they are the easiest and smoothest that we've ever had the pleasure of using. The puzzles are original, inventory based, and story related. They range in difficulty from the obvious to the moderately obscure, but all are logical, and they can be solved with attention to detail and the ample clues given in conversations and remarks.
The world in which you find yourself seems somehow frozen in time, and the graphics are absolutely stunning! Done with a limited palette of grays and browns and mossy greens, they are atmospheric, understated and elegant, reminiscent of paintings by the old masters. The imagination shown for the unusual subject matter often makes you catch your breath in awe and the realism is unbelievable. There's a feast for the eyes at every turn: the shafts of light filtering through the trees in a forest, the rolling mists in the mountains, the variations in the moving water, the natural flight of birds, the bubbly surface of old wood veneer, and the curved reflections on the glass of a greenhouse.
Not even the smallest detail is overlooked. The water still drips from the lampposts after a rain, the weeds blow in the wind when the train passes by, a key actually bounces when thrown onto a concrete floor, and the sound of your own footsteps changes when you move from sand to metal or stone. And the music is nothing less than magnificent! It's evocative, stirring, and achingly beautiful... and notably, only performed periodically for emphasis or heightened emotional effect, something usually only experienced in motion pictures.
All of these different elements, including some cut scenes that you will never forget, work together synergistically to create the perfect illusion, as you travel across the face of Europe through four fantastic towns. You are magically transported to another place and time, to be captivated by the story itself for hours on end.
Kate's search for the elusive brother turns out to be a journey of self discovery, and the characters that she meets along the way serve to foster her own growth and development. The characters are wonderful, whether seen or only heard, whether automatons or humans, and the voice acting is perfect! All are broadly played examples of the need to feel important, and some are funny and some are sad. But they all lead Kate ever closer to an understanding of herself, her world... and others.
It's an eye-opening experience, and it elicits an emotional response in the player that catches you unawares. We laughingly feel her frustration as she tries to deal with those around her, and we empathize and identify with her as she gradually begins to realize the truth. And at the end (that glorious ending!) we cheer her on, with tears in our eyes, as she makes her final decision. You go, girl!
If you can play only one game this year, make this the one that you choose. In our opinion, it's probably the best game of the last decade. It is definitely our choice for Game Of The Year 2002 (USA Release). Don't miss it!
Developed (2002) by Benoît Sokal and Microids. Published and sold in the United States by The Adventure Company. Published in Canada and Europe by Microids.
Rated: T for Teen 13+ (mild language, use of alcohol)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium II 350 MHz (Pentium III 500 MHz Recommended); Windows 95 / 98 / Me / 2000 / XP; 16X CD-ROM Drive (24X CD-ROM Drive Recommended); 64 MB RAM (128 MB RAM Recommended); 16 MB (32 MB Recommended) Direct3D (DirectX 7) Compatible 3D Graphics Card; DirectX 7 Compatible Sound Card; 400 MB of Free Hard Drive Space
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