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Soul  Calibur II

Games Roundup:
Soul Calibur II, Syberia, and
Post Mortem

reviewed by
Donald Melanson

November 24 , 2003 | games

Soul Calibur II (GameCube)
developer: Namco
publisher: Namco

In my review of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, I lamented the lack of decent fighting games for the GameCube. Indeed, MK:DA was the only decent one, and even it failed to match the top fighting games on the PS2 and Xbox. Thankfully, Namco has rectified the situation, not only producing one of the best fighting games ever but, arguably, putting the best version of it on the GameCube.

Soul Calibur II does just about everything right. It's easy to learn, but difficult to master. It's balanced. It's gorgeous to look at. And, like most Namco fighting games, it's incredibly well polished.

Unlike Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance's system for unlocking the numerous bonuses and extra features in the game, which got terribly repetitive after a while, you'll actually want to spend time unlocking the many features of SCII for the experience, not just the reward.

There's really not much more to say. For anyone the least bit interested in fighting games, Soul Calibur II is a must.

soul calibur 2 stickOne of my chief complaints with fighting games on the GameCube is not with the games themselves, but with the GameCube's controller. Not even Soul Calibur II can fix this problem, but there is a solution. The Hori Soul Calibur II Arcade Stick (available from The stick is very durable, but not so heavy that it's uncomfortable to use on your lap, and it accurately replicates the feel of an arcade unit. The only downside is that you'll have to get two if you want to have an even two-player match.

Rating: 5/5

Syberia & Post Mortem (PC)
developer: Microids
publisher: The Adventure Company (US)/Microids (Canada, Europe)

I'm a fan of adventure games. The traditional 3rd person, point and click variety popularized by Sierra and LucasArts in the 80s and 90s. There are few other types of games you can play while sipping a cup of coffee and still be thoroughly engrossed in it. It's such a uniquely different gaming experience than any other genre that I'm disappointed to see so few new games being developed. So I eagerly look forward to each new release but, unfortunately, am usually disappointed. Two recent games, Syberia and Post Mortem, both from Montreal-based game studio Microids, are better than most recent adventure games, but still fall short of the high standard set by titles like the Gabriel Knight series.

SyberiaOf the two, Syberia most closely follows in the tradition of classic adventure games. It's of the third-person point and click variety and relies more on puzzle solving than reflexes. You assume the role of Kate Walker, a lawyer sent to the small European town of Valadilene to close the deal on the sale of an old automaton factory. It's an inspired setting for an adventure game, and is wonderfully realized with lush graphics and a great musical score.

It's with the puzzles, however, that some of the game's flaws begin to become apparent. Compared to most adventure games, there are few puzzles to be found, and of those, most are very easy to solve. While this makes Syberia a good choice for people unfamiliar with adventure games, veterans of the genre will likely be somewhat disappointed. Also, given the tremendous potential for puzzles (the game is centered on automatons after all), I was underwhelmed by the imaginativeness of them. Especially compared to the meticulously detailed game world.

The other major problem with the game is that it's over all too quickly. I was able to complete it in a week, not playing more than a couple of hours a day. I won't spoil the ending, but it comes at a rather unexpected time that feels like it should just be the halfway point in the game (there is a sequel planned for release next year). While it lasts, however, Syberia is a very enjoyable gaming experience, with only a few nit-picks (the repeated cell phone calls especially get tired after a while).

Post Mortem

In contrast to Syberia, Port Mortem utilizes a first-person interface, which works quite well most of the time. The plot is familiar territory for adventure games. You play Gus Macpherson, a detective investigating a murder mystery that quickly involves secret societies, rituals and conspiracies -- all in 1920s Paris. As with Syberia, Microids has done a wonderful job creating a lavish game environment that you'll want to spend time exploring.

The biggest problem with the game is the character interaction system. For something that's been perfected in dozens of other games, it's a wonder Microids couldn't come up with something better than what we have here. For one thing, there's no way to skip dialogue that you've already heard. There's also often no logical progression between questions, which sometimes results in some bizarre conversations.

Some of the puzzles in the game also present a problem. Maybe I'm dense, but some of them seem unfairly hard. A couple of them require you to spot and remember very indistinct details in the background. And one requires you to create a police artist's sketch by matching different combinations of facial features, not something inherently unfair, only that there's a number of possible combinations that seem to match, though only one will work. I had to consult a walkthrough a couple of times, something I ordinarily never do.

Despite these problems, adventure gamers will find a lot to like in Post Mortem. Even with the dialogue problems, the storyline is engrossing and the atmosphere of the game is excellent.

Syberia: 4/5
Post Mortem: 3/5

Buy Syberia at
Buy Post Mortem at

Donald Melanson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Mindjack. He keeps an irregularly updated weblog at: and writes about movies at:

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