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Have You Played... Syberia?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The early 2000s were a wasteground of the worst of point and click adventure games, with only mainland Europe seemingly interested in investing in them, and the vast majority being drossy shite about hardened ladycops investigating grisly murders that inevitably involved psychic visions and memories of the death of her father. Good grief, there were a lot of them. In 2002, during this genre mire, came Syberia. It was handed to me for review by PC Gamer with the usual, “Ha ha, this’ll make him write swears,” but then…

It was rather lovely. It wasn’t great. For some reason the game has taken on a minor cult status amongst some, heralded as this masterpiece of the genre – that’s complete rubbish. But crucially, it wasn’t awful. Player character Kate Walker may as well have been a hardened cop (although in this case lawyer), and it was plagued with the godforsaken mobile phone that every game at that point was apparently obliged to have. But the story she was involved in turned out to be surprisingly lovely. She was tasked with closing down an automaton factory in the Alps, and ends up pursuing the mysterious inventor of some astonishingly complex and lifelike clockwork characters. It becomes a personal tale of self-exploration, at the same time as crossing from Western Europe to the snowy isolation of remote Russia, with some really delightful graphics, and a mix of decent and not-quite decent puzzles.

How it became thought of as one of the all-time greats I can only put down to my old adage for hardcore adventure gamers: to a heroin addict, it doesn’t matter how cut the heroin, so long as there’s the hit. It explains why those years of tortuous bullshit were so madly clung to, people pretending obnoxiously awful games like The Moment Of Silence were anything more than another needle of skag. But anyway, despite that, Syberia was pretty good.

Syberia II was fucking awful though.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founding robots of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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