Released in 2002, Syberia was a first-class adventure title thrust into a crowded market. Since then, that market for adventure titles has dried up, they are hard to come by, and finding good ones is even more difficult. Developed by Microids and headed up by Benoit Sokal, Syberia II continues Kate Walkers adventure where the original left off, but can it bring back the majestic feeling the first one offered?
Syberia II leads you through an epic journey to find the mysterious land of Syberia. Without giving too much of the plot away, you begin in a small train station, ready to complete Hans Voralberg's obsessive last wish. It starts out a bit slow, helping an old man discover his dreams and a mysterious land named Syberia, a place where the mammoths still roam free. One of the biggest strengths of the Syberia series is the innovation and creativity. Automatons, a wind-up powered train, and machinery that people could only dream of are commonly found in the world of Syberia. The storyline itself is brilliant, full of enthusiasm with a mysterious veil that will keep players coming back until the end. The title continues the story of the original, and leads to a more than satisfying conclusion, but you'll have to play it for yourself to solve the mystery that is Syberia.
Graphics are where Syberia really shined. Although fairly static, the environments in Syberia were first-rate, with an outstanding amount of detail and imaginative creations that sparked a certain fascination. Syberia II continues this same trend, but improves upon it. Character models are further enhanced, and environments have a more dynamic feel this time around. For an adventure title, Syberia II looks and feels like a masterpiece on display, visuals that will impress even the most skeptical gamer. The original was a surprise at the sheer detail, and Syberia II is more of the same. Environmental effects such as snow, flowing water, ice flows, and even rusting steel look highly realistic, while character models are top-notch. A lot of detail has been put into the facial expressions and models of the characters, which is to be expected as the series is known for a lot of spoken dialogue. Likewise, the cutscenes in Syberia II are beautifully detailed and well-rendered, just another element to pull you into the atmosphere of the title. Syberia II is a graphical masterpiece like its predecessor, and that is an understatement to say the least.
The puzzles in Syberia II are similar to those found in the first, but in most cases are a little bit more relevant to the storyline. Whether it's trying to get the train out of a station or bringing Hans back to good health, Kate Walker will have a lot on her hands. Unfortunately, some of the puzzles are mindlessly time-consuming, requiring trips from one end of the map to the other, back and forth again and again. The storyline will keep players interested, but the title would have been better should it have been a little shorter without all of the 'busy' work thrown in. Unfortunately, a lot of the puzzles are often also solved by randomly dragging a menu item onto a 'hotspot', and while some of the puzzles are simplistic others require very non-intuitive solutions that may have you scratching your head.
As with the graphics, audio was one of the major strengths of the original, and it continues to be for the sequel. The background music is very soothing, and is quite a nice overall musical score. This music is very themed towards the environment and situation at hand; it blends with the strengths of the graphics to provide a very immersive atmosphere. The sound effects are fairly minimal, but accomplish their goals quite nicely. The major strength of Syberia II is the superb voice acting and very solid dialogue. This dialogue is not only well-written, but it fits well with the title as a whole, something few adventure titles are able to accomplish. The flow of speech isn't quite perfect, as on occasion information is repeated, but these issues are minimal.
Syberia II is a very solid adventure title, but isn't without its quirks. For starters, the dialogue is displayed as text, as are the choices for the Kate's replies, but on the Xbox they are unfortunately extremely small and a bit blurry, unless you have a high-definition television it is very difficult to read. Secondly, the "point and click" control model doesn't translate to the Xbox perfectly, you may find yourself having to move a little bit to the left or right to enter doors or perform actions, sometimes making it exceedingly difficult to follow the puzzles and locate these 'hotspots'.
Will Kate Walker locate Syberia? Does it even exist? How will she overcome unseemingly endless obstacles? That is for you to discover. Syberia II is likely one of the last really good adventure titles for a while; fortunately it should satisfy most players until the adventure genre picks up from its roots once again.