Sunday, April 2, 2017

Syberia II - The Friday FREE GAME Feature!

Join a genius inventor and his automaton engineer on a journey to a legendary island!

Syberia II is a point-and-click puzzle adventure game originally released in 2004. It's currently available free on Origin, likely to help promote the long-awaited sequel (Syberia III) that's set to release this month.

Before playing this on Friday, I completed Syberia earlier in the week on Twitch. While it's not necessary to play the first title as this game features a recap video, you get a much better idea of the main characters and setting. Doing this also allows me to compare the two games and see what's changed - and it turns out there's a few things to note as you'll see below.

You play the role of Kate Walker, a lawyer from New York who was originally sent to finish the buyout of a toy factory in France and got caught up in a bizarre adventure to find its missing heir, the genius inventor Hans Voralberg. Syberia II picks up right where the last game left off - after finally meeting Hans, Kate decides to accompany him on his journey to the supposedly mythical island of Syberia, home of living mammoths.

As you can probably tell from the lengthy setup above, the series is rich in story, character development and dialogue. Syberia II seems to focus even more on dialogue, as you can continue the conversation on a topic by choosing it again in the dialogue menu. This becomes an important part of the game, as persistence is often key to progress. For example, even getting off the train platform you start at is a puzzle - the gate into the town below is locked, and you've got to question what few people are available several times to finally get a clue as to how you're opening it. The change in how the dialogue menu works is mostly an improvement, but as characters hardly repeat themselves anymore, you need to carefully listen to what they say the first time.

Having played through Syberia this week, I discovered that from a gameplay perspective it is perhaps one of the best in the point-and-click genre ever made. This is due to a thoughtful layout of the majority of puzzles and the proper amount of clues provided. Unlike many titles of its kind, you rarely find yourself "pixel hunting" or trying each item on things until something finally works because the game is simply too vague. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily true in Syberia II. Continuing the stream after the portion recorded for the video above, I ended up very frustrated inside the monastery. There's several important locations that are fairly well hidden unless you click and inspect every inch of the place. Additionally, the key to a puzzle is further hidden somewhere in one of those locations - and there's no clues given on how to obtain it. The game just assumes you'll "try A on B" apparently. While that's par for the course in most games of the genre, the original Syberia was above that and it was pretty disappointing to see this in the sequel. I'm not sure how the rest of the title fares, but a badly designed spot that early in the game has me a bit worried.

That said, Syberia II is (at worst) above average for the genre and (at best) a worthy sequel to an amazing point-and-click puzzle adventure. I hope to continue it on stream in the weeks to come, perhaps as random/bonus broadcasts when I have the time. Pick it up if you like a good story, interesting characters and challenging puzzles.

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