|System: PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Microids||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Dreamcatcher / Telltale||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Likely due to its touch-screen interface and moderate processing power, the DS seems to be becoming a popular platform for re-releasing old-school point-and-click games from years long past. Theoretically, the genre should be perfect fit for the system. In practice, the results tend to be hit or miss. While it's great fun to take classic adventure games for a spin in a portable format, the handheld seems to have an uncanny knack for highlighting old flaws and throwing new ones onto the pile - at least where some substantially outdated remakes are concerned.
Last year, the DS port of the PC adventure classic Myst did little more than glaringly demonstrate just how outdated the game really is and what a mistake it was to attempt to revive it from the dead. Though pillaging the vaults of antiquity for gaming gems to dust off might often seem like a good idea at the time, there are some games that are best left buried. The same can't quite be said of the new DS adaptation of Benoït Sokal's 2002 PC gaming hit Syberia. The dark, steampunk-inspired adventure title is a solid choice to bring to the handheld, but a few missteps in its implementation lead it astray from the path to greatness.
Since Syberia on the DS is a fairly straightforward PC port, much of the core essence of what made it such a strong game remains intact. Perhaps the six years of technological advances and countless adventure games released since its debut make it seem less innovative, but the game's intriguing story loses little luster in the transition to handheld format. The tale begins as New York attorney Kate Walker travels on a quick jaunt to France to seal the deal on the acquisition of a small toy manufacturing facility for her large, corporate client. In an odd twist of fate, the woman who owns the factory suddenly passes away before she can sign it over, and Walker stumbles upon a bizarre funeral procession led by mechanical automatons just as she arrives. Regardless, her employers direct her to find a way to complete the acquisition at all costs.
Directing Walker in the third-person to explore the Voralberg Toy Company and surrounding area, you'll soon uncover the deceased factory owner has a sibling named Hans who sustained brain damage as a youth. It turns out he's actually still alive, though he was previously believed to have passed away. He initially turned to creating magnificent mechanical devices before obsessively fixating on mammoths before disappearing. Throughout the game, your search for the eccentric benefactor takes Walker across Europe in an unusual journey that has her questioning her own life choices. The story is front and center. It's interesting at some moments, confusing at others, and generally odd throughout.
Some concessions had to be made to bring Syberia into a smaller format, but the handheld port looks amazingly close to its PC counterpart. Six years ago, the game was a marvel in the graphics department. Though PC game graphics have advanced drastically since 2002, the pre-rendered scenes and environments you'll explore are quite impressive on the DS. In contrast, Walker herself isn't nearly as detailed. She looks decent in close-up areas where you can make out her features but tends to pixelate when walking into the distance. The in-game visuals are strong, and the fully animated movie cutscenes follow suit; they're not nearly as condensed as they could have been - something that's unfortunately pretty common.
As is typical of many adventure games, classic or otherwise, the puzzles rely heavily on finding keys and context sensitive objects to use on various hotspots. Many of the challenges are intuitive, though some suffer from a general vagueness that's not uncommon in the genre. A few negligible elements have been condensed and streamlined to simplify some of the steps along the way to make things flow a little easier with the DS small screens. If you've played a point-and-click adventure game before, you'll know what to expect.