Lost: Via Domus

Written by Joe Martin

March 7, 2008 | 08:02

Tags: #abc #abrams #dharma #jack #kate #license #locke #lost #numbers #review #television


Unfortunately, just because the story doesn’t break the game doesn’t mean that the game can’t be broken.

Lost: Via Domus is frankly just a very badly designed game. It’s actually quite hard for me to say that so bluntly too – I have enormous respect for game developers and have seen firsthand the amount of work and dedication that goes in to creating even the simplest of games. This isn’t just a case of a few bugs or a dodgy feature or two though – the game is clearly just badly designed.

For example, near the start of the game I emerged from the jungle on to the beach and saw the plane crash for the first time. There’s screaming and all sorts going on and I strolled out onto the sand when – BANG – I’m dead. A game over screen, the most hated of all screens, flashed up and told me that the engine had just exploded and killed me instantly. There was no way to foretell it was going to happen – not unless you had the first episode of the show running next to the game and saw it happen there, but even then it’s a leap of logic to assume that what’s in the show is in the game.

Lost: Via Domus The Way Home
Grue hunting is very creepy, but not much fun.

Now, you could argue that this is just a small event and not worthy of such damnation. You’d be right if this was an isolated incident, but unfortunately it’s an indicator of the numerous insta-deaths to come.

My favourite insta-death occurs in one of the game’s cave sections which are very quickly introduced. In the caves you need torches to see, but torches are a limited resource and prone to damage from waterfalls and bats so you need to preserve them as much as possible because the darkness is apparently deadly. Without a torch you not only stand the risk of falling unglamorously into a dark pit (“Game over: You fell in a pit.”) but you also risk coming across a grue. Five seconds or so without a torch results in “Game over: you were killed in the darkness.”

Without a save option (the game does use very regular, numerous checkpoints though) this means you’re kicked back to the entrance of the cave and have to try again – something that essentially means just trading for more torches. It really doesn’t take an idiot journalist like me to figure out why such a game mechanic is a bad idea – with no idea how many torches they need, players could well be committing their time to unwinnable and frustrating situations.

Plus, trading coconuts for torches is never a good sign.

Lost: Via Domus The Way Home
Click to enlarge

The game design itself is hugely linear and uninspired too – a shame for a game with such a cleverly plotted source material to draw from. Essentially a third person action-adventure, the game sees players running around getting missions from NPCs and then solving the said missions, ad infinitum. This is usually a case of getting a cryptic “explore this dark cave” quest from Locke or a “be an annoying arse” mission from Jack. Sometimes Sawyer mixes things up by asking you if you want to trade coconuts and books for guns though.

The game is very linear too and is divided into different episodes to provide some sort of structure to experience. In some ways this is a rather nice touch and it would be great to see each episode end on a little cliffhanger much like the show.

Unfortunately, rather than splicing together the good parts of each medium, the designers have instead put together the bad parts in a hugely annoying mish-mash that could have been oh-so-promising if handled right. The result is that the episodes aren’t a consistent length, end oddly (“You found a compass!”) and you have to actually watch a recap at the start of each one. Yeah – the game spends five minutes out of every half-hour just re-telling you the stuff you already did not two minutes before that!

It’s kind of like if a mad scientist said to you that he was going to breed spiders with people in an effort to create Spiderman – but in the end only managed to create spiders with a penchant for binge drinking and falling off of things.
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