By Etienne Vlok
Let’s be honest here, for a moment. Tie-in games, for the most part suck, and badly at that. In most cases, it would probably be more apt to call them cash-in games: you have a built-in audience – most of them not hardcore gamers – who are eager for more material using the same source. As recently pointed out in our Beowulf review, it’s mostly a cynical exercise in taking an established formula, putting on a new coat of paint, and milking the cash cow for all it’s worth.
Which is why I find it refreshing that Lost: The Video Game (or Lost: Via Domus, in the States) actually tries to break a few genre conventions, and manages to be somewhat fun, if you’re willing to put up with a few eccentric design choices.
From the outset, let me be clear: this game is aimed either at the hard-core Lost follower, or someone both interested in the TV show, and some light gaming on the side. It’s not a top shelf title by any means of the imagination, but thanks to some prevailing sanity at the distributors, it’s not being marketed and priced as such, locally.
For those totally new to the series, Lost is an award-winning show that focuses on the survivors of Oceanic Airlines 815, which, for reasons still not explained completely on the show, crashed on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What at first seems like a tale of basic survival in an unforgiving environment turns into something more when it becomes apparent that the island is not completely normal.
The game follows the story of an amnesiac photojournalist that also happened to be on the fateful flight. Since the character hasn’t appeared in any of the TV shows yet, the game follows a plot running parallel with the story already told, intersecting briefly at certain points, but by and large, this is an original adventure. Along the way, you’ll meet and interact with most of the main characters from the show. There is a strong narrative element, which drives the game, but to get the most from it, you need at least a basic working knowledge of the show it’s based on.
When considering the gameplay, you may think the game looks like a standard 3rd person action-adventure title, but Lost can far more accurately be described as a 3rd person puzzle-adventure. During the entire course of the game, I fired 5 bullets. The game isn’t loaded with gun battles, preferring to have you drive the story along with exploration and some clever, albeit repetitive, puzzles, that mostly consist of you having to solve a fuse-swapping mini-game to sort out an electrical problem. There are some action sequences in the game, but they are few and far between. A memorable sequence requires you to navigate through pitch black caves, using a lighter or torch, which can only burn for a limited time – the catch being that, when the light does go out, the screen is totally dark, and you’re not exactly alone. It creates some tense and interesting moments.
Other sections require you to travel through the dense jungle, using only visual cues to guide you. As a gameplay mechanic, it’s slightly ill-considered and frustrating, since you can very easily become disoriented, considering that you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to explore the jungle before danger rears its familiar head. However, I get the feeling that it would be easy to get disoriented in a real-life jungle as well, so I suppose it’s there to add to the feeling of being… well, lost.
One of the interesting features of the game (and keeping very much in line with the show it’s based on) is that the game is divided into seven â€˜episodes’, each structured with a flashback to the previous episode, a teaser, title card, several acts, a climax, and flashbacks. The flashbacks are used to fill in the backstory for your character, and it’s an effective way of building intrigue and suspense as the puzzle is pieced together as you progress. It’s presented to you, at first, in the form of a jumbled photograph. From these sequences, you need to walk around your â€˜memory’ and take the photograph (or a close copy of it) for you to remember what exactly happened, at which point you’re treated to a cutscene, revealing another part of the larger plot.
The visuals are probably the single strongest point of the game. While the characters themselves look a bit bland, the environments are awesomely rendered and are truly stunning to behold. The game recreates a number of scenes directly from the show, with pleasing accuracy.
The sound is generally OK. Lost isn’t renowned for its use of music and the same is true in the game: there is a soundtrack, but it’s mostly mood-setting, filtering into the background. The voice acting is a bit of a roller-coaster ride: some characters are presented very well, while others sound stiff and a bit forced. Interacting with some of the main characters from the show also feels flat. Suffice to say that if you aren’t familiar with the characters from the show, you’ll find their reactions in-game to be somewhat enigmatic.
Ultimately, though, Lost is a very short game. I clocked it in about 6 hours, and I managed to get all the achievements along the way, too. It’s not very difficult to play, with a control scheme you’ll get used to in about 5 minutes of playtime. It is engaging, and tries breaking some new ground in the genre. While it doesn’t always succeed, it provides an interesting story, and some memorable sequences. There’s not a lot of replay value to the title, the focus being on the linear single player component, but I’m a sucker for a good plot, and Lost certainly has a few more twists and tricks up its sleeve than most comparable games.
Considering that the local retail price takes all of the above into account, I don’t feel guilty about recommending the game to the serious Lost fan: it’s basically fan-service on a disc. Even casual fans of the show will get a kick out of it, provided you don’t set your expectations too high, gameplay-wise. It’s not game of the year material, but it’s not a shameless cash-in title.
Graphics: 75 %
Gameplay: 65 %
Originality: 65 %
Tilt: 70 %
Overall: 65 %
Last Updated: March 12, 2008