Reviewed: May 27, 2006
Released: April 25, 2006
As the reviewer for both of the Syberia games I felt it was my duty to review Benoit Sokalís latest creation, Paradise. Iíve never been as big of a fan of the Syberia games as a lot of other people. Iíll admit they are beautiful games with intriguing stories, but the traditional adventure-style gameplay has never tried to break new ground.
Sadly, neither does Paradise. It starts off with the all too familiar story of a girl who has lost her memory, allowing us to discover things right along with our character. After the opening movie that creates more questions than it answers, we find ourselves in control of memory-challenged, Ann Smith, or at least thatís the name weíll be using since it was printed in the book we had in our bag. Of course, those of us who have read the game box, manual, or website, will know that we are actually the daughter of the king and our plane crashed in route to visit him when he had fallen ill.
Paradise is your traditional 3D adventure game giving you limited control over your character to move around various environments and interact with whatever the designers have allowed for within the script. Itís a game of limited options that, like most adventure games, quickly turns into a pixel hunt where you pass the orb cursor over objects in hopes that it triggers an item you can look at, pick-up, or open.
Ann starts off in a palace hallway and neither she nor us have a clue as to what to do. There is a locked door so we obviously set off in search of a key. It was only through trial and error and exhausting all possible interaction points (both of them) that I happened to look out the window and trigger the next event which ultimately unlocked the door for me.
Your ability to explore the world around you is often restricted through cheap methods of confinement like a burly silent guard or a locked gate. A single click walks you and a double-click has you running to the target location. Arrows indicate possible exits off the edge of the screen but these arenítí always visible, so you can get stuck if you arenít careful. Backtracking is also required as some key events happen in previously explored areas later in the game.
Puzzles never go beyond collecting everything that isnít nailed down then trying to figure out how to assemble it and where to use it. There are a few logic puzzles but even these are simple pattern and order memorization affairs. Youíll also want to exhaust countless conversation trees with everyone you encounter.
Even your ability to interact with the world is limited to only a few options. Most adventure games at least let you look at nearly everything in a scene and you either get to read or listen to a verbose description of that item. In Paradise, your options are few and even when something does trigger your mouse cursor there isnít much to follow. Conversations are quickly exhausted to the point where characters will just say their last line of dialogue over and over.
My biggest complaint with the game has to be the totally misleading caption on the middle picture on the back of the box - "continue the journey as the leopard in real-time 3DĒ. That quote combined with the awesome growling leopard during the initial menu load had be pretty excited, but there was absolutely no pay off. What a rip!
No, I take that back. My really biggest complaint is that this game was able to get through QA with so many crash-inducing bugs. And donít say itís me, cause the forums are full of disgruntled gamers stuck in Paradise. Just make sure to save often to avoid replaying substantial portions of the game.
The two Syberia games are arguably some of the most beautiful adventures in the history of the genre, both scoring perfect 10ís. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Paradise. The best parts of this game are the cutscenes, which are borderline Square or Capcom movie quality. Some scenes are so realistic youíd mistake them for actual video, especially any of the ones with the leopard.
The level designs are interesting enough and you have some authentic African flavor in both the palace architecture and the surrounding outdoor areas. There are some really gorgeous scenes with moody lighting and shadows. Often the game is too dark or the background scenes too complex to find objects you need without relying on the morphing mouse cursor.
Character design is merely average. I canít help but think Iíve seen just one too many female characters walking around these adventure games. The women in the game arenít terribly attractive but they arenít ugly either. Animation is acceptable with good walking and running, but there are odd hiccups when characters get stuck in random loops during conversations.
The soundtrack is actually quite good with a lot of African flavor using natural instruments. It blends perfectly into the background and provides just the right amount of ambiance for the gameplay. Sound effects are simple and recreate any sounds you might make while interacting with the world around you.
The speech is very good despite the lack of any discernable accents from anybody. No particular performance stood out as either really good or really bad. Much like the entire game, itís average if not forgettable.
Paradise falls into the 15-20 hour category, restarts and replaying after crashes not withstanding. The deceptive claims on the box about playing as the leopard will fool and disappoint a lot of gamers who donít research the game beforehand and the numerous bugs will make this game a chore to get through the first time. Replaying is hardly an inviting option.
Even though Iím not a huge fan of Benoit Sokal or his previous games, I do respect his creations as some of the more inventive adventures in the past several years, and when you are going to use your name and that respect to endorse another game like Paradise you had better be sure the game is going to deliver on its promises.
Paradise looks great in the cutscenes and passable during gameplay. There is a decent sound package and quality voice acting, and even the story managed to capture my interest, until the totally abrupt ending hit me like a truck. Did they run out of money? Time? Saving something for a sequel? Inquiring minds want to know. Or do we?