Syberia - A Love Song

Posted by: gatorlaw

Syberia - A Love Song - 06/27/02 11:08 AM

SYBERIA: A LOVE SONG


I have often read about some particular game, book or film and it was said that it’s creation was "a labor of love". I believe that this is true about Syberia . And if that is so, then this review is an unabashed love song. I suppose this passionate opening suspends all objectivity, a cardinal sin for a reviewer, so be it. For there are always those experences that even in the most critical and objective light are beautiful and worthy of our unqualified admiration.

As a bit of pre-history to this review, I have a long held appreciation for Benoit Sokal and his work. Before his days with the well known Microids game Amerzone, he has been an amazing artist of vision in the field of illustrated adult books and art. When he graced Microids with his artistry for Amerzone - I was happy and indeed found much to like about the game.

Then came the whispers of something new. A name sprinted around the web circles - Syberia. I am not sure exactly why, but at the very first tantalizing hints of this new project - something stirred and I had a thought that this would be something truly different. As time passed and early screen shots and more tangible evidence surfaced about this game - those stirrings gelled into a secret certainty. By the time release was imminent - I was convinced Syberia would be more than a new adventure game - it would be THE game. Perhaps even more - a perfect blend of interactive art and creative vision.

Then the box arrived on my doorstep. I realized that through some kismet of the mails, I was one of the very first to get this game in my hands. I had earlier decided against playing the demo for this game - first: I needed no inducement to get it - and secondly, I wanted nothing to detract from my first impressions. I was now thrilled at that decision, because after I had installed and loaded Syberia., within seconds I was transported far beyond my desk top and keyboard.

As the opening cut scene passed across my screen and the beautiful musical score became a permanent part of my musical memory, I knew that I had never been so right in trusting a pre-conception. For once, my expectations about a game had not only been reached but surpassed. In fact after experiencing Syberia I now know how far I could have let my expectations truly go and still find them transcended.

The characters were instantly sympathetic. Momo, a child, - perhaps not quite right according to the society we endure - but somehow also above all that we see and hear. Oscar - who throughout this game grows in our heart as a trusted companion and tin man to be loved. Then there is the aging Russian star, beautiful and heart breaking in her pain and isolation. Kate our heroine; harassed and harried by the voices of her life - while silently awakening within herself a spark of a dream for something more.

This is the true brilliance of Sokal and this tale. We can easily identify with Kate Walker. She is an attorney, bright and socially adept. She has an ambitious fiancee, a socially alert mother and the right sort of friends. As Kate moves into a world of wonder and distance from her old life, the calls from this life intrude with greater frequency and increasing annoyance. Here is Kate in a faraway place with mastadons and marvels - while her friend prattles on about Bloomingdales and Kate’s fiancee fusses like an old woman because she is hindering his plans for a successful dinner party and business deal. Kate and we as the player revel in her new found heart, spirit and capacity for love as the game unfolds. I found myself wishing with all my heart that I too could be traveling into a world of ice and magic rather than face even one more troubling phone call or e-mail.

The specifics of the game will be discussed I am sure in abundant detail in many reviews and board discussions. And I will confess right now - I am not going to discuss the OS of my PC or the details of game settings. There will be plenty of places and reviews that will tell you all that and more. Because as I told you in the beginning this is a love song not a shopping list. Suffice it to say, the graphics are flawless. There is seemingly no detail too small to be overlooked. I had to pause as I left my hotel for the first time. The rain had stopped and I just listened and looked. I watched as the last few drops of rain slid off and dropped to the ground. Birds cantilever against the sky and trill happily. I swear if you close your eyes - you can almost smell the damp earth and feel the breeze on your face. The music is perfect, rousing and soaring where it needs be, dark and moody when the scene and environment have shifted gears. Even now - it is hard to get the music from my mind. Many parts of this game are in short - haunting and the musical overlay plays a major part in that.

The interface could not be easier. Here is return to the simplicity of nothing but the mouse. Double click to run or a single one to walk through a scene. The cursor will let you know if there is something to pick up, to use or a dialogue to be had. The length is purely up to you. You can ask all that you see or go for the simple question that you know must apply. I happen to enjoy well crafted lines and in fact re-visited some of my favorite exchanges after completing Syberia. There is a particular poignancy to Kate’s last exchange with Oscar, her automaton companion. Although it has nothing much to do with any perceivable goal - this should not be missed. Much of the charm of these lines has everything to do with the voice talent employed. It is the nuances and intonations with which Oscar says this piece that hits the heart - not the words themselves. Which if read coldly would signify little. Whether it be a beautiful and aged opera singer, a madman, Momo, Kate Walker, beloved Oscar or ultimately the cause of this journey Hans Varlburgh himself - the voice talent in Syberia is wonderful.

There are puzzles as it were or perhaps challenges would be more accurate. Locked doors must be opened. Rusted machines must find new life and be started. I did not see any that were superfluous, not logical to the environment or unfaithful to the story. In fact there are many objects and wonders that even with the best efforts are beyond help. But they are still a marvel to regard and consider. In fact one of the best parts of this whole experience was the rarity in which I found myself stuck or without some sense of what needed to be done. If I did find myself wandering aimlessly - it was always because I missed something that a more careful eye and slower pace would have seen. I recommend making this game an experience rather than a challenge or a project. I think that if this is played with a clock and a dedication for "beating the game" you will surely miss much wonder, enjoyment and perhaps even the point of the story. For this is indeed a tale of the journey being the message rather than the destination.

This game’s message was hard to face at times and most of all distressing to finish. I knew even as I started and made my way through this story that I would miss this game much. So I played with anticipation and also the conscious regret that this would at some point be over and the story told. In fact - I played the ending more than a couple of times - and it is achingly beautiful. I have revisited my favorite scenes and conversations too. I will miss the music as the game unfolded and the opening load screen as I started up Syberia each day. I can only wait in wonder for Syberia 2 and the rest of this amazing journey of heart and soul.

So ends this love song and ode to a great game, an amazing vision and perhaps greater still the beauty of the human heart and spirit. For this game tells us that beauty is more than youth and physical grace. It is in fact to be found in the ageless depth of a human soul coupled with the deep capacity for love and wonder in us all.

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Game Requirements:

Required configuration
Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium II 550 MHz
64 Mb RAM
3D graphic Card - 16Mb

Official links:

Official Syberia Site

Microids
Posted by: syd

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/27/02 11:41 AM

Laura what a breathtaking review of a truly wonderful game. Ever since I read your post on the Adventure forum about the water dripping off the lamp outside and the birds chirping, I knew this game would be all it was proported to be and it is. Like you, I decided not to play the demo and I'm not sorry I didn't.

I am currently making my way slowly through the game and am in no immediate hurry to finish it.
It's going to be a long time before another game will equal this - maybe one never will.
Posted by: Cedric

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 11:37 AM

Gatorlaw and everybody here,

I'm spending a lot of time on this forum but do not want to interfer into your discussions too often.

This time I have to because I really feel the need to communiate with you the joy we feel here at Microïds when reading such a review.

We are really happy by the comments you made about the game. The dev team is proud of what they have been able to do with B. Sokal and the final product seems to speak for itself...

Thanks for spreading the word on how you liked this game. Thanks for buying it and we are extremely happy that you liked it that much. You guys at Gameboomers are really great folks!

Keeps us motivated for the sequel...
Posted by: gatorlaw

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 11:56 AM

Thank you Cedric,

But I feel that any praise or joy that can be brought to the Microids development team is small repayment indeed for this amazing work.

Now that being said....get to work! Syberia 2 awaits. Well ... maybe some time off for a well earned vacation laugh

Laura
Posted by: asazen

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 06:48 PM

Laura,

I have just read your review and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I haven't experienced Syberia yet, hopefully next week, but your review will make it an even greater experience, Thankyou.

asazen
Posted by: lasanidine

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 07:36 PM

What a wonderful review Laura and so true. I just started plying the game and I am already in love with it. The graphics are so beautiful and rich that sometimes I just stand and look at all the detail, the colors and I almost feel the mist and the raindrops on my face. This awesome talent coupled with a riveting story and the interesting gadgets one has to manipulate has produced a truly marvelous game.
Posted by: Titan

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 08:43 PM

Laura,

Being one who appreciates a well written post on any topic and who endeavors to achieve same in some on my own - which always fall short in some fashion or other it seems to me - I must say that your review is truly extraordinary. I too, had read your opening impressions of Syberia as you began play, and had mentally marked this game as a must for the future. After reading your review my heart is now pumped to play also.

While the game is the object of creation and pleasure, your review is a masterpiece.
Posted by: gatorlaw

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/28/02 10:14 PM

Well guys, I am just blown away this evening. smile

Lasanidine - I have admired your own reviews here for some time - so thank you much. Nickie and Asazen you guys are too much. Titan, you are indeed one who turns an elegant phrase so your wonderful words here overwhelm. I wish we could have hooked up while I was in Round Rock and talked for a while over some good coffee about adventure games. smile

Laura
Posted by: Titan

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/29/02 12:58 AM

Indeed what a pleasure that would have been. You would have recognized me as the guy who walks in with a pen and notebook ready to take notes on the games I've only heard of which you have most likely played and have opinions about. What fun. I've never had coffee with an attorney.

BTW, I've just begun one of your favorites, Under A Killing Moon. Have died once so far. Took too long to admire the setup of the Rusty the clown doll and the pawn shop thief did me in.
Posted by: MaG

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/29/02 09:10 AM

Laura,

I try not to make comments on a game when I write but I agree with you on this game so much I have to express myself! You wrote a very touching, complete review and also expressed the general viewpoint of a lot of gamers that finished the game. Applause for you, my friend! Astounding masterpiece from the heart!

The game left me so emotionally connected that it took a while for me to get back to normal. When writing, I had to look at background, nuances in body language and the storyline which made the connection to the characters through Kate's eyes very personal. The unseen Anna's trials and pain caught between father and love for her baby brother, the ambitions of a tyrant father, the early glimpse of Han's life through Momo's appearance in the game, the birth and evolving growth of Oscar, the insecurities of an aged star from her fame to seclusion, the ex-cosmonauts alcohol cure to broken dreams and most of all Kate's slowly opening eyes to life and looking at the deeper layer of maturity. Her struggle to change and cope with what is thrown at her physically, emotionally and mentally.

Benoit Sokal is wonderful as ever as he touches the deepest core of human nature in all it different facets.Ambitions in the old world as well as in the modern jungles in New York.The people at Microids did a superb job. The twist in the neck muscle of Kate, the body language shown by the shadings of the outfits, the sway of the grass when the train passes, the mist over the mountains, etc.

Kudo's to you, Benoit Sokal, Microids and most of all Kate!
MaG
Posted by: ramona

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/29/02 11:21 AM

Laura, that was such a wonderful review that I have no hesitation in buying this game. The review was so poetic and detailed. It is wonderful that Microids acknowledge your wonderful work. Thank you for sharing with us.
Posted by: gatorlaw

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/29/02 02:53 PM

Ramona - thanks - glad to hear that Syberia will be on your PC, hope you will find joy in the playing of it. smile

MaG,
Quote:
The game left me so emotionally connected
That is the precise phrase that eluded me when I was writing this piece. It was so hard to disengage from playing Syberia for that reason. Well said, as always you hit right to the heart of the matter smile

Titan,
Quote:
I've never had coffee with an attorney.
....remember the first cup is always free laugh

Laura
Posted by: KarenNJ

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 06/30/02 06:56 AM

I have never read such a beautiful review...and having just received my copy of Syberia I understand and agree with every word Laura, but your words have served this wonderful game well, no one could have said it better. rolleyes

Karen wave
Posted by: MacDee

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/01/02 08:47 PM

Laura.....

You review took my breath away and tugged at my heart. I have always said you never met a game you didn't like, but your love affair with Syberia is unparagoned.

The review was beautifully descriptive and unique in it's perception. I look forward to playing Syberia more than ever.

Outstanding review Laura.....

xoox~Dee
Posted by: Namma

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/09/02 07:09 PM

And now a word from the minority. The minority being those gamers (like me) who prefer 1st person, solitary, load it with puzzles type games. My favorites list includes games like Schizm, ROTS, Riven and Reah. Only 2 games that are 3rd person made my top 15 for the twisty list, and both of those are cartoony type.

But to every rule there is an exception, and Syberia is it! I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed it more than I have ever enjoyed a 3rd person game. This is a keeper that I will enjoy playing again.

From the time that I met Momo and he stole my heart until the very end, this game and the characters enchanted me. From beginning to end it played flawlessly. (Note: I played the first half of the game on my old puter and the second half on my new puter.)

As stated before the graphics and music were beautiful. Character interaction and dialogue is usually tiresome and tedious to me in most 3rd person games, but I found that in Syberia it was neither. It was interesting, humorous and touching.

So you 1st person game lovers out there, this is the one 3rd person game that you really must try.

Laura, your review was sheer poetry, but I am glad that I waited to read it until after I played it. Only so that as I read it I could remember the fantastic journey I had just taken.

Now I just need to figure out which game is to be bumped out of my favorites for next years twisty list............Syberia needs the space.

Hugs, Cheryl
Posted by: gatorlaw

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/09/02 08:06 PM

Thanks Cheryl,

You have such a warm heart and tender spirit - it is always so wonderful to read your views.

I decided to replay Syberia a couple of days ago I just don't ever replay games that fast EVER. I was so surprised at the nuances that I had missed - even as rapt and attentive as I was the first go around. I realized ....

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That what really attracted me to Kate the most was how she freed and enabled each person she interacted with. Momo needed to feel loved, Oscar frozen in procedure - needed humanity, the captain standing an eternal and fruitless watch, The pilot hiding in his bottle - set free to go to the stars... But the one she had the hardest time freeing was herself. Gee I love this story. I have this feeling that like TLJ and a few others - I will learn something new every time I revisit this game. smile

Laura
Posted by: Namma

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/09/02 09:00 PM

That's a little ironic Laura. You usually don't play games right away and this time is different. I usually replay games right away but this time I will have to wait a little while. frown

I never was able to get involved in TLJ (okay, who threw that bottle?) as much as I tried.

MORE SPOILER**************
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At first it was Momo who drew me into the story. Then I felt somewhat curious about the elusive Hans. Anna's devotion to her brother compelled me further into finding out more. Seeing Oscar become more human throughout their journey was heart lifting. All the characters were quite memorable indeed, but Kate becoming her own person and realizing her own worth was quite magical. There was one particular phone conversation with the boyfriend that I found myself talking to Kate and telling her to dump the Jerk. And I remember telling myself "you don't care for 3rd person games and here you are talking to the characters."

I will be replaying this one again real soon, wish it was now, but really have way too much that I must get done.

Hugs, Cheryl
Posted by: philby

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/14/02 06:58 PM

Three cheers for Microids......I just finished the game and the 1st thing I said was, I sure hope there will be a sequel to this AWESOME game!....of course after reading Cedrics reply it is going to unbearable waiting for the sequel....I heard that some people could not play the game.....all I have is a measly P II 400 with a Voodoo 4 video card and played great!
Thanks Microids and all the others that worked on the game......
Paul
Posted by: DocPaul

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 07/29/02 11:44 AM

I am still working on CD1 of this game, but overall I agree. The graphics are magnificent and do not lose any quality when the cut scenes take over (unlike Schizm). The story is marvelous and I enjoy the slow unfolding of the storyline as Kate discovers journals and letters and such.
I agree with Cheryl about the 3rd person perspective. Normally, I prefer 1st person and detest games with keyboard driven characters (like the awful Time Machine), but this game is a very welcome change. I had been somewhat disappointed when I first found out it was 3rd person and I was apprehensive about the potential stress of trying to master the movement controls, but the point and click method used here makes it easy. The music adds tension and pathos at appropriate points of discovery. It really has been a great game so far, a great blend of the story-driven games of the mid 90s and the graphics quality of the 21st century.

Paul
Posted by: Reenie

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 08/03/02 07:50 PM

WOW!

I don't know which to applaud more: Laura's review or the game itself. Exquisite and evocative writing, Laura! If you don't want to buy the game after reading this review, you don't have the soul of a poet.

Oh yes, and REALLY nice job on the game, Micron... laugh
Posted by: gatorlaw

Re: Syberia - A Love Song - 08/03/02 08:16 PM

Thanks Reenie,

I was so impassioned when I wrote this piece. And what dolt ever thought these were "just games" smile

Laura