Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Syberia 2 is out. For those who didn't play Syberia, it involves an intrepid young woman who goes around solving puzzles that seem to crop up along every stage of her journey through frozen tundra.
You can read my Review of Syberia to get a gist of what this series is about, because for better or for worse, Syberia 2 is more of the same.
In essence, you're on a quest to find mammoths. The first Syberia was maddening in that it ended the game without even achieving your quest and without warning you that this was only "part 1 of 2". So it was a big let-down. Also, Syberia 1 had a REALLY annoying sub-story involving your boyfriend having an affair with your supposed best friend and lying to you. I really hated it.
But that all being said, moving through Syberia and Syberia 2 is like walking through a hall of gorgeous paintings. Sure, the snow falls in the background, but your world is a static one. You have one angle that you see a given room at. That's it. You wave your mouse around the room to see if anything highlights to work with. So while the rendering is gorgeous, we're a long way from the days of pre-rendered rooms to wander through. I'd much rather have the room a real, interactive one that you could turn around in.
Also, as much as the puzzles are made to be part of the plot (since you're travelling around with Hans, a puzzle maker), a lot of times they are just maddeningly tedious. Take this example. You discover that in order to cure your sick friend, you need to get a special cloth, put it on his face, and take it to the doctor. This isn't a mental challenge. But it takes you a full FIFTEEN screen moves to get from the location of the cloth to him, never mind walking back again. And each screen move means you sit there watching Kate, the Hero, walk slowly from one side of the screen to another. The hot spots to "move to the next screen" change each time, so you can't even leave the mouse in one spot for the clicking.
Speaking of tedious, some of the inane conversations you have with people go on literally for 10 minutes or more. I fold origami in my spare time, so I kept a pile of origami paper next to the mouse. I could finish sets of cranes in the time it took for Kate to get through talking to a single person. Click. (talk 4 minutes). Click. (talk 3 minutes). Click (talk 6 minutes).
Yes, some of it was cute. But much of it was just filler. Anybody who lives in a cold region knows that people in the cold don't tend to stand around and chat. It's too cold. If they wanted to make this world full of incredibly talkative people, why not base it in the Jamaican Islands? I can easily imagine a pair of people in Montego Bay lounging by the beach, holding 2 hour long conversations about trains and stations. But here Kate is desperately looking for coal and trying to save a dying friend ... and she has time to hang out and chat for 20 minutes with the shopkeep? I don't think so.
On the other hand, if you just zip from start to finish in either of the Syberia games, it's over very quickly. There isn't a lot of "gameplay" involved. So the only way to stretch the game out and make it worth your cash is to treat it like a long graphic novel. Don't try to rush. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Chop up some cheese clices. Put on some cool background music. Then sit back and go through the scenes slowly, enjoying every nuance.
Recommended for puzzle solvers who enjoy painting-watching and who have a lot of patience. I enjoyed this a lot myself, but I can understand those who got frustrated with it and quit part way through!
Buy Syberia 2 from Amazon.com
Syberia 2 Walkthrough