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Review – Lost: Via Domus

posted on April 2nd, 2008 by tony

This game is horrible.

I could finish the review there but I think I really need the warped therapy that you can only get by ripping into a game that’s tormented you for a week. Not one aspect of this game is redeemable (except maybe the easy 1000 gamer points — but even then I feel cheap). From inception to execution I can’t believe that Ubisoft Montreal had anything to do with this poor excuse for digital entertainment. On top of that, I can’t believe that ABC and the show’s writers signed off on it. Scratch that; I can totally believe ABC signed off on it. I’m a pretty big fan of Lost, the second season was less-than-stellar but I think the writers really picked it up during the latter half of the third season and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down this year. I could have given the game a little leeway if it at least had some interesting plot elements that tied into the series but there’s just nothing here that warrants anyone’s time.

Let’s start with the technical stuff. Visually, the game is passable. The jungle environments look pleasing enough, the beaches strewn with plane wreckage are sparse but well designed. The indoor levels are where the game starts to slide a bit, with repetitive surface textures and cramped environments that are no more than a diversion from the outdoor levels. You can never move around that much within a given area (think Devil May Cry series) so you can’t explore more than a hundred virtual yards before you’re treated to a loading screen or cutscene that takes you to another small, bland area. The character models are atrocious. It looks like they attempted to paste photo-realistic faces on the more well known cast members, sometimes to comical effect. Characters with unique facial patterns like Ben or Sayid look ok, but pretty much everyone else looks deformed.

Well from the looks of these X-rays the entire game is broken.

I wasn’t a big fan of the way the game was presented — as seven “episodes” of the show. Each episode starts with a “last time on Lost …” flashback montage of things you just did five minutes ago and after a couple of minutes of play it cuts again to the floating “LOST” text of the show’s intro. It really pulled me out of the game and on more than one occasion I was stuck watching the same flashback a few times over because I died before making it to the next checkpoint. There’s no way to fast forward through cut scenes and the save game points are so few and far between you end up seeing the same cinematics a lot.

The voice work is laughably bad. Somehow they got four original actors (Ben, Sun, Desmond and Claire) to actually voice their characters but for the rest it’s just hack-job extras. Locke and Sawyer were especially half-assed, sounding like exaggerated characters straight out of a Scooby Doo lost episode. The ambient sound work was more strange than anything else. For example, the sound of the black smoke monster floating around the island was dead on, and then while I’m standing around in the woods waiting for my chance to get past it I hear a generic owl hoot … on an ISLAND … a TROPICAL island. Just … amazingly stupid stuff.

As far as gameplay goes, there’s not much to be had here. You’re days mainly consist of running to different locations, talking to island inhabitants (of which there seems to be about nine in the game — including the three “Others” you meet) solving stupid fuse puzzles, typing on old computers and taking pictures of stuff to unlock your memories. You get a gun, which I shot three times, but I wouldn’t call the times you use it “action sequences” as that would be a blatant lie. To unlock most of the story and achievements you walk around taking pictures of things that aren’t very hard to find. You’ll move around a 200 square foot patch of grass in which you get an average of four or five environmental interaction prompts. These range from “Pick up coconut” to “Examine note” and whenever you find something of interest your character will actually say “Maybe this is worth a picture” … and BAM … 20 achievement points.

The fuse puzzles are incredibly frustrating, requiring you to first scour the area for tiny fuses laying around and then figuring out how to place three types of fuses into various slots in order to add or subtract voltage until the meters read properly. It involves way too much shaky math, and if you know anything about circuit board currents it’s all totally bullshit. I don’t want to get into this in too much detail, but if you have a fuse that somehow magically subtracts 15 amps from the circuit line, turning that fuse sideways will not fix it. I almost lost it during these sequences. For the first couple of fuse minigames you have the exact number of fuses you need, and it’s painfully obvious where they go. But as you move to the later puzzles you sometimes have way more fuses than there are slots, and then that shaky math comes back. Add to that a complete lack of logic and the answer is total failure at keeping me interested.

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you…

For some reason, the writers decided that this game was the perfect venue to introduce a new character. Why you aren’t playing as one of the main cast is something I asked myself every time I was made privy to my character’s stupid and insignificant back story. You are Elliot Maslow, a douche bag reporter who happened to be in Australia researching a completely unrelated story. You wake after the crash with amnesia (you can tell the writers really tried with this one) and you have to piece your memories back together using your digital camera and third grade investigative skills. Whenever you talk to a cast member who says something to jog your memory another minigame begins, and believe it or not this one is even more frustrating than the fuse puzzles. You find yourself reliving a fuzzy memory that can only be made whole by taking a picture with your “memory camera” of a specific instant in time … but you aren’t told what photograph to take.

I did not just make that up. They really expect you to use a fake camera to take a photo of every second of the memory until you hit the correct moment, angle and focus. That’s right … there are no less than three variables that must be in perfect alignment for the photo to take place: focus, framing and timing. If you miss, the memory resets and you have to try again … and again … and again. No lie, the first memory photo minigame took me fifteen tries before I realized that I needed to take a picture of Kate on the plane in handcuffs. But not just a plain old photo of Kate … I needed to zoom in on just her hands exactly when she’s getting a water bottle from the stewardess. There’s about seven of these segments in the game, all equally annoying.

As you progress through the game you visit all of the well-known island locales (Swan station, the Black Rock ship, the medical station, the hatch) but never during pivotal moments from the show. It’s always right before or right after something cool happens … awesome. I guess I should preface the next few sentences by saying they contain the end game spoiler but really, if you still care there’s no hope for you. Long story short, you find that before the plane crash you caused the death of a girl you used in order to get your story, and then on the island you sell out Jack, Kate and Sawyer by making a deal with Ben to lure them into captivity (told you he was a douche bag). You manage to find a boat and escape from the island just in time to look back and see the strange hatch explosion (from the end of season two). You look up and see flight 815 crashing again and a piece of debris hits your boat … and you wake up back on the island right after the plan crash.

That’s right folks, the whole game was pointless. In more ways than one.

I feel better.

4 Comments

  1. Shota said on April 3, 2008:

    This sounds terrible. Why did you finish the game? Why not quit?

    (Also, for a relatively quality example of working a new set of characters into a classic story check out LoTR: Third Age.)

  2. jay said on April 3, 2008:

    Because some of us are dedicated journalists, Shota.

  3. Shota said on April 3, 2008:

    I’m dedicated to your Mother, jay. I like to take her out to dinners and long walks on the beach.

  4. Tony said on April 4, 2008:

    I finished for three reasons:

    1) I was hoping that the story would eventually fill in some blanks regarding the show’s plot.

    2) The game only took about 4 hours to complete.

    3) I got 1000 achievement points for 4 hours of work.

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