Although it was just a random fluke at first, once a pattern is established, why not carry it out to its conclusion? Ia! Ia!

And she was all like "Cool shades man" and I was like "I know"Cyberia (not to be confused with Benoit Sokal’s atmospheric graphic adventure Syberia) is a thick slice of 90s FMV cheese. I obtained it as part of one of Interplay’s cheap old game anthologies, and it wasn’t one of the games that I bought the anthology for. As a result, I had basically forgotten about it until I saw its name in my list, and had some difficulty locating the disc: I have most of my physical media nicely alphabetized by title, but a CD-ROM with multiple unrelated games on it breaks such a scheme, especially if you don’t remember that the title you’re looking for is on such a thing. Installing the game under DOSBox (and convincing it to use an image of the CD-ROM instead of the real thing) went without problems, except that the color map goes all strange when I try to run it in full-screen mode. Irony, that: here we are playing a game from 1994, when full-screen FMV without special hardware was finally feasible, but I’m playing it in a tiny portion of my screen anyway.

The video content here is all pre-rendered CGI, and shares with most other pre-rendered CGI video of its era the sad attribute that it doesn’t look as good as what’s done in realtime by stuff that you can play for free on the web nowadays. It’s ever the fate of games that emphasize style over substance to age badly. Ah, but what about the substance? So far, I’ve seen three sorts of interactivity: bits where you wander around and try not to get killed, bits where you solve self-contained puzzles, and bits where you shoot at aircraft (or possibly spacecraft; this is a sci-fi game, but I’m not sure just how sci-fi).

The wandering around is weak and Dragon’s Lair-ish, with a rapid die-and-retry cycle and no other way to anticipate the results of your actions. (Like Dragon’s Lair, it even bases its interface on the equivalent of an Atari joystick, four directions and a fire button.) The shooting is more reminiscent of Rebel Assault: you swoop around on a pre-rendered video track and sundry targets present themselves in sync with the scenery (but with a rectangular targeting thingy around them to make it clear that they’re not actually part of it). It’s easy to fail this stuff, and the unvarying background video makes it feel extra-repetitive when you do. As for the puzzles, I’ve really only seen one so far, and it was pretty cool. It involves just as much dying and starting over as everything else, of course, but it was in the service of figuring out an ambiguous mechanism with a minimum of instruction. There were details in its graphical representation that I didn’t notice until I had gleaned some notion of what I was looking for, and that felt very nice. If only more of the game were like that.

1 Comment so far

  1. McMartin on 9 Jun 2011

    This is, quite possibly, the worst game I have ever played. (Though the “rapid die-and-retry cycle and no other way to anticipate the results of your actions” is basically why I think this – if your tolerance for that is higher, your mileage may vary.)

    I’ll bite my tongue for now on specific things that still fill me with bemused nerdrage over a decade later – I’ll be looking forward to your takes on the rest of the game.

Leave a reply