Soul Calibur II, Syberia, and
24 , 2003
Calibur II (GameCube)
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
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.
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 Lik-Sang.com). 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.
Syberia & Post Mortem (PC)
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
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).
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.
Post Mortem: 3/5
Syberia at Amazon.com
Post Mortem at Amazon.com
Melanson is the founder and editor-in-chief
of Mindjack. He keeps an irregularly updated weblog at: melanson.ca
and writes about movies at: melanson.ca/movies.
email for info