It’s a rare thing for me to give a rating of 90% or higher to a game, but that’s just what I did in my review of Syberia in September of 2002. Syberia was easily my favorite adventure since The Longest Journey in 2000, and since nothing great has come out since then, it still is. Syberia II, obviously, is the sequel to Syberia, and while it’s still a pretty good adventure, it doesn’t have the same magic for me that Syberia did, and so it’s going to have to be content with an 88%.
Syberia II picks up right where Syberia left off. Once again you play Kate Walker, a lawyer from New York, and while in Syberia you spent a lot of time tracking down the elusive, automaton-creating Hans Voralberg, in Syberia II your goal is to journey with him to the mythical island of Syberia -- provided the island really exists. Along the way you’ll have to deal with train robberies, plane crashes, bridge collapses, kidnappings, evil monks and more. For a while I was wondering if I was really going to make it to Syberia at all, or if developer Benoit Sokal was going to leave that for a Syberia III. But, rest assured, Kate and Hans finally reach the island, and this looks like it’ll be the final Syberia game.
Syberia II uses an engine almost (if not completely) identical to the one used in Syberia. So you’ll be playing from a third-person perspective, and clicking with the mouse will do everything for you. That set-up worked well in Syberia and it works well again in Syberia II. Plus, even though the engine is perhaps dated (two years in computer game time is like centuries or something in real time), the graphics still look excellent and the game is still intuitive to play.
Speaking of the graphics, that is by far the best aspect of Syberia II. Benoit Sokal is an artistic genius, and you’re not going to find two better looking games than Syberia and Syberia II. From the ice cavern home of the Youkol tribe to the frontier village of Romansbourg to the fabled island of Syberia itself, the graphics and imagery of the game are worth the price of admission by themselves. If there were Academy Awards for computer games, then Syberia II would be the easy winner for Best Cinematography. And I haven’t even gotten to the cut scenes yet, which are about as good as you’re going to see in a game not developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
Where Syberia II has its problems is in the puzzles. Once again they’re reasonably easy. In fact, at the start of the game the puzzles are so easy that the game seemed more like an interactive movie than an adventure, but once you run into the evil monks things start to pick up, and there are a few good ones towards the end of the game. Still, nothing in the game is overly complex, and so if Schizm and Uru are among your adventure game favorites, Syberia II might not be the game for you.
Since Syberia also had reasonably easy puzzles, that fact in Syberia II didn’t bother or surprise me much. What surprised me is that the story isn’t as interesting. In Syberia Kate met a lot of people who had depth and intriguing backgrounds, and she spent a lot of time figuring out how strange automatons work. In Syberia II, the only new character with significant screen time is a sniggering villain who isn’t believable at all, and Kate performs a lot of mundane tasks, like stealing gas and distracting bears. There are also some plausibility issues -- even considering that this is an adventure game and that adventure games rarely try to be realistic. For example, the train where you start out has tracks leading almost all the way to Syberia, and the train has functions built in that let you get to the island. If Hans was able to set all that up, why didn’t he go to Syberia a long time ago? And then there are the evil monks and the crashes and the kidnappings and so forth that are just a little too numerous to be believed.
And so while I enjoyed Syberia II, my enthusiasm for it is a little less than it was for Syberia. Still, with the dry times that have befallen the adventure game genre, Syberia II is definitely a game you should pick up, and we should all hope and pray that Benoit Sokal can continue to deliver us an adventure every two years.