Syberia: Getting Unstuck

I’ve finally made it out of Valadiléne! I really thought I was going to have to use hints, but I found one difficult-to-see hotspot, and then, after exhausting what I could do from that, another. The first hotspot led to an area that belatedly gave me the motivation for certain random actions I had been performing just because I could. The second was the one that let me use that voice cylinder, so I was still looking for that right up to the end.

Syberia uses what used to be called a “smart cursor”, but nowadays generally isn’t called anything because we take it for granted. All it means is that the cursor changes according to what it’s pointing at, like how the pointer changes into a pointing hand when over a hyperlink in your web browser. Syberia‘s default cursor, indicating the action “walk as close as possible to this point”, is a ring, flattened by perspective into an ellipse. I don’t know why this shape was chosen, but most of the other cursor shapes are variations on it. Mostly they add a stem to the lower right of the ring: a simple squared-off stem turns it into a magnifying glass for the “examine” action, characters you can talk to give it a pointed stem that turns it into a speech balloon, and a gap in the ring opposite the stem makes it into a robotic pincer for a generic “use”. The subtlest change is the cursor for “exit to a different room/area/camera angle” action, which puts a glowing halo around the ring. (A halo with a halo?) This is the one variation that doesn’t change the cursor’s shape.

Now, the first hotspot I was missing was a case of two “exit” actions positioned very close to each other. There was a gap between them where the cursor would turn back to its default form, but at typical cursor speeds, this happened very quickly, and, because the cursor didn’t change shape, it was easy to not notice. Exit hotspots tend to be quite a bit larger than the doorway or whatever that they send you through, so it didn’t seem at all strange that one hotspot would extend over the area covered by the two of them. Should I have known that there were two exits from the art? The art is often ambiguous about this; there are a lot of visible openings that you can’t go through, and there are paths that you’re not able to step off of despite the area to the sides being completely open. (Which is yet more evidence that the natural environment for an adventure game is a cave.)

Actually, I don’t know how valid it is to say that I failed to notice that hotspot because it blended in with the other, given that the second hotspot, which took me longer to find, was a “use” in the middle of nothing. It was an undistinguished book in a bookcase that, when clicked, opened a secret compartment. I had swept over that bookcase multiple times over the course of my general hotspot-hunt without noticing it. I suppose my week-and-a-half pause is to blame here: when I came back to an obviously relevant bookcase and couldn’t find anything to click, I assumed that I must have already taken something from it and rendered it inert. (See previous post.) Perhaps I would have spent more time on it if it still had things to click — if, say, every book were clickable, rather than just the one important one. This would run the risk of having the hotspots blend into each other like the exits described previously, but at least it would give the player some reason to believe that the books were interactive.

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