The Nintendo DS is
becoming a port system. This is... well, I'm not sure what it means. Sometimes I'm grateful, because it brings me - and a new generation of gamers - classics like
Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 4.
Other times it chums things up royally. Like in Syberia.
Any time I review a game, I have to ask myself what the developer was trying to accomplish and whether they succeeded. In 2002, when
Syberia was first released for the PC, it wove a intriguing tale around the character of Kate Walker, a lawyer whose seemingly simple job of overseeing a corporate take-over of a toy company becomes complicated when the owner dies and leaves the company to an heir who disappeared years ago. It attempted to colour this tale with a flurry of surrealism and art nouveau.
Did it succeed? Ask its thousands of fans - if you want to have the next several hours of your day occupied by philosophical discussion.
Syberia had a truly brilliant script and style of presentation that lent itself to intelligent discussion.
Jump forward to present day and Tetraedge's declaration to release
Syberia on the DS. Despite praise for the game, Syberia probably isn't the most obvious choice for such a renewal. After all, it doesn't have quite the fan base of
Maniac Mansion or The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which would be infinitely easier to port within the DS' limitations. Still, I can only assume that Tetraedge's port was well-intentioned, because otheriwse I have to assume that their entire staff is made up of Lovecraftian
most mind-rapingly annoying song..."
Make no doubt about it: Syberia
on the DS is one of the worst ports of all time. Tetraedge never should have tried to fit such a large and graphically detailed game onto such a tiny screen. Predictably, this leads to a wealth of issues. You often can't tell what you're looking at on a screen, and so the gameplay turns into a frenzy of touching random objects to see if you can interact with them. Even then, the spaces the game wants you to click in are often so precise that you'll still miss key items and locations and spend hours wandering around screens, touching each pixel at a time.
Further complicating things is the speed at which Kate moves. Was Tetraedge afraid to insult her ironic family name by giving players a run button? Seriously, Kate crawls her way across the screen at roughly the speed of a narcoleptic turtle. So when you inevitably miss getting an item in a location, you are faced with an unskippable ten minute trek to retrieve it.
Also, because the DS can't support the kind of memory a game like
Syberia requires, Tetraedge was forced to remove many more of the salient aspects of the original game... like the
music. Syberia had a celebrated soundtrack, so of course Tetraedge decided to cut it down to tiny blurbs that they set on perpetual loop. It's a recipe for madness. Now the entire time you're engaged in your
exhilarating pixel search you'll be treated to exactly twenty seconds of the most mind-rapingly annoying song you've ever heard. Imagine the theme from
'Psycho' being played forever and you'll have a good idea of what Iím talking about.
Another item of little consequence that Tetraedge has removed is
Syberia's story - or, at least, a sizeable chunk of it. All of the voiceovers have been cut, along with half of the NPCs and most of Kate's character development. In particular, they cut the
phone calls involving Kate's failing relationship with her boyfriend back in the 'States. Without this side-story to create the pacing and shape Kate's character, things quickly fall into tedium.
menu opened directly over the keyhole..."
Then you reach the actual puzzles and things go straight to hell.
The first puzzle I got well and truly stuck on came about five minutes into the game, when I had to insert a key into the top of a desk of drawers to open them. It seemed simple enough, so I opened my inventory to grab the key. When you want to use items in
Syberia, a little menu helpfully pops down and gives you easy access to them. You just grab the item you want and drag it to the spot you want to use it in. Unfortunately, in this case, the menu opened directly over the keyhole. You can't close the menu while holding an item, so I was well and truly screwed. What I finally ended up doing was exiting the menu and quickly grabbing the key before it could fully close. It only took me about an hour.
The second frustration came about fifteen seconds later when, after opening the top drawer, I couldn't close it. The DS helpfully instructed me to "draw" towards the drawer as if I was closing it in real life. After seventeen tries, I decided that "real life" in this case referred to someone who lived in a world where furniture had yet to be invented. Finally I managed to pray to the right demons and the drawer shut. Leaving me with four more drawers to search through.
By then, I'd lost the will to live.
It's difficult to know how to score Syberia. You
see, I haven't beaten it. After four days of the game, I
simply couldn't take any more. For all I know, everyone
who manages to beat
Syberia gets free blowjobs from Kate Walker.
But by the time she crawled her way to me, I'd have
the most painful ports in memory.