Title: Syberia 2
Available on: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows Mobile, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, OS X
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Graphic Adventure, Puzzle
Official Site: http://www.syberia.microids.com/EN/collection/syberia-2
Release Date: (for the Switch) November 30, 2017
Where to Buy it: Nintendo eShop, Steam, Google Play, App Store
Taking place right where Syberia left off, Syberia 2 follows the lawyer turned explorer, Kate Walker, on her voyage after she deserted her normal life waiting for her in New York City and joined the strange elderly man, Hans Volarberg, in pursuit of his life-long dream. Finding the ancient land of Syberia has been in Hans’ mind ever since he fell down and went into a coma as a little boy, resulting in a rather odd obsession with Mammoths. Kate and Oscar–Hans’ Automaton–are tasked with helping the man fulfill his dream, whatever the cost.
Exactly like the first Syberia, the second installment is a graphic adventure, puzzle game. You’re required to solve a variety of different puzzles, ranging from relatively easy to hard. The problem is: the puzzles that you find yourself struggling with are usually grounded in experiences, places, texts, or people you previously encountered. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, as it forces you to pay close attention to your surroundings. The first Syberia was successful in this area. Unfortunately, Syberia 2 isn’t. For example, the last puzzle requires you to find information on the ark, except the canvas that displays this information can be missed easily if you don’t search high and wide for it. Thinking I already looked at everything important from the ark, I continued on my way, resulting in me running back and forth for a frustrating amount of time before stumbling upon the canvas. That brings me to another point: some pieces of a puzzle are awkwardly placed for you to find, in areas where it would’ve made more sense to be somewhere else. I’m just glad that hints like these (as badly placed as they are) are readily available for you to find, while others aren’t.
Where hints are readily available in Syberia, there is an instance in Syberia 2 where you’ll find that there’s literally no way of solving the puzzle unless you guess it right (e.g. the mechanical horse puzzle). That is not how a puzzle should be designed. You shouldn’t have to twiddle with a bunch of tubes and dials until you solve the riddle (there are a lot of possible combinations!) because it ends up ruining the whole experience that a puzzle game should be focused on: presenting hints in a way that makes sense, and having you–the player–use those hints to solve the enigma. The whole process ends up becoming a frustrating mess when the game presents no logical solution.
The story, like Syberia, is a delightful treat that I enjoyed thoroughly as I traversed the wild terrain of the ancient land of Syberia. New characters, challenges, and environments press you forward as you and your companions get closer and closer to your destination. The graphics, especially for the time the game was made, help bring this story to life. The script for Syberia 2 feels off at some points, though, but I wasn’t expecting it to be extraordinary after my experience with the first installment’s writing. It’s improved, I’ll give it that. Story matters in a game like this, but how one presents this story is just as important.
One aspect of the story that bothers me is the final conflict with Ivan, the little creep who kidnaps Hans and Oscar. Kate finds out that Ivan survived the Yukol Village incident and somehow stows himself away on the ark without her or Hans noticing. Besides him stowing away without being caught being unrealistic, I don’t think Ivan reappearing makes sense in regards to the overall narrative. The area you reach when you’re forced overboard by Ivan is cool to look at and play through–with all the penguins and such–but doesn’t make any sense. What’s the point? You’re only there for like five minutes. Ivan is already dead in your mind at that point in the game, so your final encounter with him doesn’t elicit a significant enough response to merit it being included in the first place.
A lot of reviews bash on the Syberia series for how short the games are and how they lack replayability. The length of the game presents only one issue in my mind: if it were longer, then the side plot revolving around Kate’s law firm trying to find her could’ve made more sense. As it is, this aspect of the game does nothing to progress the game or the characters in any way. Like the final encounter with Ivan, it feels more like filler than anything else. Expanding on this building conflict, instead of abandoning it, could’ve helped the game shine a little bit brighter. Syberia 2 not being replayable is self-explanatory: by the time you’re finished with the game, you know the solutions to all the easy and frustrating puzzles alike. By the second playthrough, there’s no reward in it for you.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of the Syberia series, and you have a Nintendo Switch, then I recommend sticking with the first installment instead of the second. Syberia 2, like its predecessor, works perfectly with the Nintendo Switch and has an excellent story propelled by well-developed graphics (especially for when it was originally released); but neither of these positive elements can save the game from a deteriorating script and frustrating puzzles. Certain scenes will feel more like filler than anything else because of the game’s length, while playing through the title again to figure out if you missed what’s so important about these sections will be an even shorter and less engaging experience due to the knowledge you possess about the riddles dispersed around you.
- Improved script compared to first game
- Intriguing story
- Graphics for when it was released
- Awkwardly placed hints
- Puzzle depending on luck
- Filler scenes
- Final encounter with Ivan
- Short and not replayable