Nominative determinism to the max.
Syberia was originally released way back in 2002 and it’s clear to see why the game still endures. It has some reasonably good voice acting and the locations are beautifully detailed drawings. You play Kate Walker and find yourself in Dickensian town in the French Alps to finalise a sale of a toy factory. Needless to say, things don’t go to plan as you discover the owner has passed away. This sets in motion the story of hunting down the factory’s heir and unraveling a mystery. Although set in the modern day, the locales and people maintain a sense that you’re in the past; a theme persisting from throughout the locations.
The game offers the Switch’s touchscreen or a controller as input options. This makes portable playing a breeze as you tap your way along. Using the stick has thankfully eschewed tank controls for a direct “move in the direction you’re pointing to” style.
Despite the controls being tightened up, the puzzles leave a lot to be desired. They are generally this format: Find a machine that you need to use, go away and find the thing to make the machine work, come back, work out how to use the machine. It gives a sense that the puzzles are there for the sake of being there rather than because it’s part of the story. The other problematic aspect of this is the walking. There is so much walking in this game. In one instance I had to walk through six different empty screens to pick up a single inventory item. You get a sense that it’s all there for you to appreciate the lovely art, but it just serves to gradually irritate you. It’s a puzzle game, and I don’t want to think about how to fill my time while travelling between the different empty rooms. Though an unfortunate trapping of 3D games of the era, at least it’s not as bad as Simon the Sorcerer 3D.
The Switch’s HD screen presents a slight issue in Syberia’s art. You can choose to play the game in a 4:3 aspect, or go widescreen. The widescreen option just stretches everything out and leaves a disproportionate mess expect for full-screen activities such as reading a book. This is more a symptom of a straight port from the era rather than a real problem, though it does expose the minimal optimsation made to the game.
All of this brings me to the rub. You see, I’ve enjoyed playing Syberia. Not as much as Thimbleweed Park, mind, but that’s okay. It’s a different kind of adventure. What galls me is the price of £26. For a straight port from the original with no enhancement except some controller adjustments it doesn’t add up. It’s not as if the Switch’s unique feature – portability – is new as the game is also available on iOS and Android. Seeing Syberia knocking around on other platforms for, at most, less than half the price is a joke.
If you like puzzle games such as The Room then this is a fun adventure twist. But, unless you find a deal, do so on another platform.
Syberia is the first in a trilogy of puzzle / adventure games. It delivers a Victorian charm backed up with great music and images with a simplistic puzzle-solving approach. Though I’d like to recommend it, the price of the game means that you’re better off looking on other platforms.