Syberia Review for Nintendo DS

Syberia Review for Nintendo DS

Classic Feel

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an uncanny knack for highlighting old flaws and throwing new ones onto the pile – at least where some substantially outdated remakes are concerned.

Syberia screenshot

Last year, the DS port of the PC adventure classic Myst did little more than glaringly demonstrate just how outdated the game really is and what a mistake it was to attempt to revive it from the dead.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.

Syberia screenshot

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.

Syberia screenshot

Syberia’s controls are where things start to fall apart. Instead of pointing-and-clicking, you’ll use the DS to tap where you want Walker to go on the screen. Her slower-than-death walking speed can’t be sped up, so you’ll have some time on your hands while she trudges at a leisurely pace across the screen. She’ll sometimes get confused by your selected location, but she gets there eventually.

Syberia screenshot

Your inventory resides on the top screen and can be swapped down to the touch screen for closer inspection of items. Several icons at the top of the touch screen let you use your phone, save the game, and access items as needed. Anything that’s usable will also pop up in a quick use bar. Some puzzles require you to tap or otherwise interact with objects. This doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned. Selecting an eye icon and dragging it around the screen reveals hotspots for traveling to new areas and interactive objects. It works reasonably well most of the time. Still, it’s not perfect, and you’ll sometimes find it doesn’t reveal every hotspot it passes over accurately. This can cause you to miss some important areas and stall progress through the game until you sluggishly backtrack to see what went amiss.

The imprecise controls and slow navigational pace are among the more frustrating elements Syberia has to offer. Puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, yet it’s sometimes easy to get off track, explore areas needlessly, and get confused on where to go next. Another area the game is lacking is in the sound department. Though the musical score is pretty, you’ll end up listening to many of the same looping passages over and over. The sound effects are sparse and few and far between. Unfortunately, DS owners who seek to enjoy the game do not have the benefit of voice acting.

In the end, it’s almost worth mucking through the poor touch-screen controls and occasionally convoluted progression to experience the game in portable form. Syberia is a good game that’s hampered by some distracting issues caused by the transition to the DS. Patient gamers seeking a solid portable adventure title to explore will find the adventure worth the trouble.

The transition to the DS manages to keep the style, look, and feel of the original amazingly well. 2.5 Control
Imprecise touch controls tend to make this port a bit of a mess. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Repetitive background music gets old quickly and sparse sound effects do little to improve the game. 3.6

Play Value
It’s a good adventure, if you can look beyond its transitional shortcomings.

3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • An amazing story to capture your imagination.
  • Interact with many different characters and discover objects and clues which will help you through your journey.
  • Fascinating characters and detailed 3D environments.

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