Syberia 2 is an odd one for me to review. The second entry in a well loved series that has seen re-releases on the Nintendo Switch, I didn’t get to review the first one. Always an awkward position to be in. But nonetheless, as someone who is quite the fan of adventure games in the classic sense, I was excited to get to finally get to grips with the Syberia series, even if it’s not the ideal place to start.
The story takes place not long after the original, with lawyer Kate Walker, now leaving her New York life behind to accompany a strange old man on his lifetime dream of reaching the almost mythical island of Syberia. Now obviously having not played the original, the character introductions are a little slightly over my head and I did feel like I missed a little going into this first but it wasn’t long until I settled into this entry and could easily accept it as a standalone story.
Since the story is so vital for a graphic adventure, I’m going to leave it at that. All you really need to know is that I enjoyed my time with Kate Walker and her adventure through the Russian tundra, meeting the weird characters along the way.
On the Switch it is not a point and click adventure, but you control Kate with the analogue stick. Walking around beautiful pre-rendered environments, you interact with objects and talk with characters. What with the backgrounds being static and all, screen transitions can be a bit of a nightmare at times. You’ll be walking or running in one direction and the camera angle will completely change which will confuse your walking direction so much. So much so your character could instantly walk into a new camera angle and, if you keep pushing in the same direction, instantly walk back into the previous one. Keep pressing up and you’ll just keep walking between them back and forth. At first it’s kind of comical, but eventually it becomes quite an annoyance having to pause your movements between screen transitions. It’s so odd that they didn’t go the Resident Evil route and give priority to the direction you were already travelling in, no matter the camera change. At least until you stop walking. Very peculiar indeed.
Being on the Switch you can use touch controls if you delve into the options, but honestly, I found the movement to be almost broken and unplayable if you want a bit of nuance. You can only press to go to places of interest, not really anywhere you want. Definitely stick to standard controls.
Right from the off, you’re tasked with refilling the train with coal, but obviously not everything is as it seems and from there the puzzles come into play. Finding the right items, asking the right people, it’s a pretty standard graphic adventure game. Occasionally there will be a task you’re not entirely sure of what you should do next, but speak to the right people and you’ll get there in the end. It’s not the most taxing of adventure games, but I kind of like that. You get to talk with some interesting people, which seems to be the main focus of it, rather than any hugely cryptic puzzles.
This is the kind of game that’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon with a freshly brewed coffee. There’s no urgency, there’s no peril, just a rather laid back brain working experience. It’s nice. It’s the kind of gaming experience that we all need once in while. A little break away from the frenetic gun play of Doom, the overwhelming expanse of Zelda or the intense competition of Rocket League. Sometimes you need a game like Syberia 2 in your life.
Syberia 2 was released way back in 2004, and it’s probably older than some of you reading this review, a scary thought in itself. It looks it too. If this is a remaster, I certainly can’t see it. While I have no doubt the characters and environments looked superbly beautiful well over a decade ago, they haven’t aged so. I wouldn’t say they look terrible or anything but they don’t hold up anywhere near as well as say, Wind Waker, from the same time period. Is it a negative to say they haven’t done anything to improve the looks? Maybe. If anything it makes it seem like a quick, cheap port. I would have loved this to be reimagined with something close to acceptable graphics of nowadays. I wouldn’t expect too much, just a nice polish up would have been nice.
The fact that the display is still in 4:3 with a frosted looking border, may put people off. It’s definitely a shame they couldn’t have made it widescreen, but doing so with the pre-rendered areas would have been nigh impossible without starting from scratch. A shame, but something I find acceptable for the situation. You can stretch the screen size if you really want to, but obviously that distorts the picture, making everything look fat and weird. Not recommended at all.
Saying that, characters do pop off the screen really well and you can’t deny the stunning design work gone into the very imaginative environments. A good analogy may be if you think of a famous star who in their prime were impossibly handsome or beautiful, and now while age may have taken that away, you can still seen glimmers of how stunning they must have been. Syberia 2 is kind of like that.
The characters are fully voice acted too and again, would have been superb for the time, although these days we have much higher expectations. The main character, Kate Walker, is thankfully top notch. She has a nice wide range which makes her seem more like a real person. Other actors are questionable, but still are tolerable and do have a certain charm to them. The wildly varied accents found in the heart of the Russian tundra though is pretty funny. Some do have a stereotypical Russian accent, but then you also have a London cockney or two thrown in for good measure.
Syberia 2 isn’t the longest game in the world and many may scoff at the starting asking price, but in all honesty it seems completely in line with its peers, Monkey Island, Broken Sword, etc. The 8 or so hours you’ll spend with Kate in her adventure, is perfectly acceptable and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Of course, you may get stuck which could extend it longer, or if you cheese it with a guide, you’ll definitely breeze through it. One thing to note is that there’s very little room for replaying it either, at least not right away. Like all good adventure games, you need to put it on the shelf for a few years before you can go back to re-play it.
Overall, yes the price is quite high for such an old game with minimal effort gone into the port. It’s available on other platforms, probably more reasonably priced too. But, taking the price out of it, if you want a solid adventure game, there’s one right here. The problem for some may be replayability, or lack of, and it’s definitely not for those who have already played it. There’s a few control issues that will test your patience over time, but a classic is a classic and if you want to experience it at both home and on the go, then the Nintendo Switch version is probably the one for you. Besides, we need more classic graphic adventure games in the world.
Game provided by Microids.