Currently the hit television show Lost is airing its fourth season both here in New Zealand and in the States. As millions of fans will tell you, Lost is solely responsible for hours and hours of people’s lives that they will never get back. Now those clever, sneaky little creators of Lost have figured out another way to torture people.
Lost: Via Domus is set around the first two seasons of the TV series and introduces a never-seen-before character to the series. Although his details are sketchy, you soon learn that he is an amnesiac photojournalist who was traveling on Oceanic Airlines Flight 815. The storyline that kicks everything off is that this transpacific flight crash lands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean – although even this fact may be disputed by some followers of the show. Whilst most passengers died in the horrific crash, some of the survivors managed to swim ashore to a nearby deserted island. Or at least they think it’s deserted. It turns out that rather than Tom Hanks in Castaway where he had to make conversation with a volleyball, this particular island has all sorts of madness going on, ranging from psychopathic cults through to supernatural abnormalities.
Basically if you haven’t watched a decent amount of the television show, you will be completely confused as to what is going on in this game. Polar bears, giant hovering smog-monsters and some bald guy telling you that the island has a mind of its own are confusing enough - Even to someone who watches the show religiously.
However, if you are a fan of the series then you will love the intro sequences. You will get to experience the plane crash first-hand as a passenger and afterward stumble from the wreckage to see recognisable cast members staggering around on the beach. All of the main characters make an appearance, including Locke, Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Jin, Sun, Jumbotron (or Hurley), Sayid, Kate and - unfortunately – even Charlie. The Others are present too so expect to run into Ben, Tom and Juliet as hostiles in the game. It did prove confusing though, with the events that occurred in Season Three to remember that far back as to how these characters first appeared.
Lost would have to be bundled into the action adventure genre. But there is definitely more of an emphasis on adventure. Most of the gameplay involves walking and exploring regions of the island and communicating with anyone who enters the screen. Unfortunately a lot of this is quite linear. For example, before you can leave the beach you must talk to Kate, then to Jack and finally to Locke before being able to get past the invisible forcefield stopping you from exploring on your own. Passages and items will only appear after you perform certain tasks and these restrictions remove any free-roaming aspects to the game.
As aforementioned, all you know about your character is that he is a photographer. As you progress through the game, more is learnt about him via the trendy flashback sequences, complete with the “submerged in water” sound-effect and intriguing cliffhanger endings that the show is famous for. The photographer element to your persona comes into play a lot as well. Forgotten memories appear in the form of ripped polaroids which you can eventually piece together to remember your identity. You will also need to take photographs of various places or people throughout the game as well. Both these elements are well integrated into the story and genuinely make you interested in progressing further to unravel more facts.
Graphically the game is brilliant. The environments will seem right at home to Lost fans. Surrounding the beach are lush, dense jungles filled with amazing detail. The Dharma bunkers are also perfectly rendered with dim lighting and textures reminiscent from the show. You will find yourself scaling to the top of a cliff just to look down on the island or zooming in close with your camera to check out Kate’s…well, you get the idea.
While we are on the topic, the character models are excellent. Faces are well detailed, easily recognisable and realistically animated. However, one major downfall lies in the lip-synching which at several points in the game just looks plain wrong, almost as if the character has suddenly had a stroke for a couple of sentences. It is surprising that the developers didn’t try and fix this up as most of the game is spent talking with people. Eventually it can get pretty distracting. Luckily though, all of the cast from the show have lent their voices to the game so all of the characters resemble their real-life counterparts.
The eye-candy in Lost: Via Domus is more or less the highlight. The puzzles that are presented to you are usually too straight-forward with a couple of exceptions and the controls are too clunky. Some sequences of the game require some deft touches to avoid instant death and if you do die (which you definitely will, many times over) you are stuck watching the same cut-scene again. Unskippable cut-scenes are the devil. Patience will need to be your friend to enjoy this game. Expect to replay several parts and to take the time to fully explore your surroundings before getting any reward.
The game is also very short for an epic spin-off of the long lasting TV show. Most people will be able to get through this game in around six to seven hours and although you can go through it again to unlock some additional secrets, few will want to.
Despite all this though, the game will still definitely appeal to fans of Lost. It doesn’t offer anything new to gamers but maintains the genius story-telling that made the show so successful. For many, simply being able to partake in the mysterious Lost universe will be reason enough to justify the price tag. However, don’t expect to find all of your answers here. The creators of the show are way too clever to reveal anything this early.