Game: Syberia 2
When Syberia was released in 2002, it came as a huge and welcome surprise. It was a new adventure game that wasn’t dreadful! Two years later, the sequel was released, and that isn’t dreadful either. But it’s slightly less not dreadful than the first game.
The plot continues from where the first game left off, with Kate Walker accompanying Hans Voralberg on his journey to find Syberia and see the mammoths there. There’s very little else to the story, the whole game just being the journey getting there, although there are various stops and several events along the way. What made the first game so interesting was the unusual melancholic atmosphere of the settings, and at the start, this game seems to promise a continuation of this. The first stop is at a small town called Romansburg, and it’s very much in the spirit of the first game, with several enjoyable puzzles that aren’t overly difficult, but require a bit more thought than those in the first game did. It captures the magical, other-wordly feel of the original game in scenes like the reactivation of a group of dancing horse automatons in the bar there. The trouble is, most of this mood is lost after you leave the town, and the rest of the game feels too much like a general adventure game, especially due to a few fundamental flaws in the storyline.
The chief flaw in the story is the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to actually like Hans. The majority of the first game was spent learning about him, not finally meeting him until the end. All the things that you learn about him make him an intriguing character who you actually want to find. Then, in Syberia 2, you find out he’s just a demanding old man who tells you to go and do things for him while he sits around doing absolutely sod all, without ever even thanking you for all the risks to your life you go through just to get him to see some mammoths. And of course, when you finally get to Syberia, he buggers off with the mammoths happily leaving Kate Walker stranded in the middle of nowhere, although the game doesn’t seem to notice this. It’s almost as if the game is incomplete, since we never get to find out what happened to Kate, and she’s the main character. I couldn’t care less what happened to some horrible old man who I’d happily have abandoned at the start of the game if I could. Oscar, the automaton train driver from the first game, also returns, and is the main reason that left me really hating Hans rather than just disliking him. I can’t explain why without a spoiler, so if you intend to play the game and don’t like spoilers then skip the next paragraph.
Towards the end of the game, Hans becomes very ill, and the only way for him to survive is for Oscar to sacrifice himself. This would be fine if Hans was in danger and Oscar was killed trying to save him, or something along those lines. It would be an interesting plot. But no, what actually happens is that Oscar is opened up and becomes a sort of metallic suit that keeps Hans alive. Which means Hans developed an automaton with incredibly advanced AI, just so it could sacrifice itself to save his own worthless life. This is the man that’s built all these complex machines all over the place, including the train you’re travelling in. He could have easily created the weird metal suit thing separately and left it on the train for when he needs it rather than having Oscar kill himself.
There’s a few plot holes in the game that seem to have not been thought out thoroughly too. For instance, if Hans is trying to fulfil his lifelong dream of getting to Syberia, how come he’s managed to create a train and lay a track all the way there in order to get there? Is he supposed to have travelled all the way there in order to lay a track that would allow him to get there? It makes no sense.
On the other hand, puzzles have improved this time. There’s a lot more thought required than in the first game, although nothing here should cause too many problems to anyone experienced with adventure games. A nice feature that sets it apart from most other games is that many of the puzzles are based around interaction with animals. It makes them feel fresh and unique, and fleshes out the environment a bit more than most recent games of this type. They’re mostly fair, although at times they do seem to require doing something that isn’t entirely clued within the game, as if the developers had forgotten to put in a piece of information. Still, that’s fairly rare and mostly the puzzles are good.
The graphics are as impressive as the first game. The problem is that the environments become a bit repetitive after you’ve left Romansburg, and that’s about the same time as most of the atmosphere seems to leave the game. Everywhere else you get fairly repetitive snowy landscape scenery, and while that’s nice at first, it gets a bit boring after the 20th screen of it, especially as there are usually very few interactive elements in these areas.
There are a few other minor annoyances in the game, such as occasional slow animations, as in one puzzle involving fishing where every time you make an attempt you’ll have to watch all the animations of Kate casting the rod and reeling it in, but they have no major detraction from the gameplay. There’s also the occasional cutscene of shadowy figures back in the offices where she used to work, as her boss hires a detective to try and track her down, but I didn’t really care what was happening back there and would rather have been able to keep on with the actual game.
All in all, Syberia 2 is a decent adventure game, but it just doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. While it has improved in certain areas, including having better puzzles, the deficiencies in the characterisation and storyline, along with the harsh ending, are just a bit too serious for it to be the classic it should have been. If you’ve played and enjoyed Syberia then you will want to play the sequel, but it’s just a shame it isn’t better than it actually is.
Save System Review: Standard adventure game save system, can save anywhere.
Graphics: As with the first game, the graphics are stunningly rendered images, and this time there’s more animation in the backgrounds to bring them to life more. It’s just a shame that so much of it is made up of similar snowy environments.
Sound: The voice acting is reasonable but not spectacular. The musical background works well with the game, fitting with the mood although never being outstanding.
Bugs: I didn’t find any bugs in the game.
Gameplay: Puzzles are interesting and fairly sensible other than the occasional lapse in logic, but the interface is still too simplistic and the environments too sparse.
Storyline: The start of the game is interesting but then the storyline unfortunately gets bogged down with the problems mentioned in the main review.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Can you still enjoy this game or does the clumsy emotional manipulation ruin it? Tell us what you think in the forum.