Sometimes it’s just better to leave well enough alone. In the videogame world, this philosophy can be aptly applied to publishers’ tendencies to create sub-par ports of solid titles, oftentimes trading game quality for platform viability. Such is the case with Syberia from Dreamcatcher Interactive.
The original PC version of Syberia was released in 2002 to predominantly favorable reviews that applauded the game’s top-notch graphics, imaginative world, and interesting plot. This year’s DS remake maintains that world and accompanying storyline, but clearly fails to deliver the beautiful aesthetic quality of the original, and brings along with the new hardware a few semi-game-breaking issues.
Syberia is a point-and-click adventure that takes New York attorney Kate Walker on a strange journey through Europe, seeking out the eccentric last heir to the Voralberg Toy Company so she can seal the deal on a corporate acquisition of the odd French automaton manufacturer. It is a unique and interesting tale, and the classic genre seems a perfect fit for Nintendo’s touchscreen-based handheld, but gameplay stumbling blocks — finicky stylus controls and meager system performance — prevent players from enjoying it to its full potential.
Players guide Kate through the strange world of Syberia by tapping the desired location on the DS’s tiny screen. Unfortunately, this is not the most precise of commands, and Kate does not always go exactly where players would like her to. There are many occasions when an ill-aimed stylus tap sends our heroine off of the screen and into the next area, and anything more than a single touch confuses the game, sending Kate back in the direction she came from. Manipulating objects in the game world can also be frustrating at times, due to similar control issues.
Many of the game’s puzzles require quite a bit of thought, and successfully solving them can be very satisfying. Unfortunately, much of the difficulty stems from the player’s inability to discern interactive parts of the environment from the background visuals, and missing the items necessary to advance as a result. In this way simple solutions can become impossible. This design choice was originally intended to showcase the PC game’s high-quality graphics, but is completely unsuitable for the DS iteration. The solution — dragging an inspection icon over the screen’s every pixel — hardly makes up for that. Then there is the matter of simply forgetting where things are and what Kate has seen prior to encountering each puzzle. I’d swear the game lied to me about her background, because NO New Yorker walks at the snail’s pace that Kate does. Traveling from screen to screen is such a painstakingly slow process that it literally makes the game more difficult to play, besides wearing away at one’s patience.
Along the same lines, what is essentially a lovely piece of background music is looped so incessantly that it could drive a person insane. After an hour of play, muting the DS was the only option.
A once-great point-and-click adventure has suffered a sad fate via this shoddy port of Syberia on the Nintendo DS. With poor presentation, faulty controls, and pacing that all but removes players from the experience, the story of the original game may have survived the transition, but its spirit remains on the PC.