godzilla_sushi's Lost: Via Domus (Xbox 360) review

Lost: Via Walking

I’m a huge Lost fan. It’s my favorite show of all time. I really do have most of it memorized as far as plot lines, locales, and characters. I never have and probably never will follow anything as close on TV again. So I was pretty excited for a game that had infinite locales, ideas, and storylines to pull from. Lost is a game that was looking pretty good at one point, as I remember. But it seems like adapting any show into a game would be difficult. I’m still waiting for a good Battlestar Galactica game here. With some shows the presentation is part of the experience, like Lost. Flashbacks and how it’s formatted/written, etc. I think Lost is actually a great property to adapt.

Lost: Via Domus is a simple premise. You’re a survivor that was on Flight 815. The main character is one of those poor red shirts. And along the way you are trying to recover from amnesia, and piece together who you are. So each episode (level) of the game adds layers to that story, while also following the timeline of the show. So you start out at the crash, then visit the cockpit, then the hatch, etc. Each level has some neat things here and there. If you are a fan, then seeing Locke’s wheelchair is kind of a neat geek moment. The same goes for actually visiting the cockpit, or getting to walk around the Swan and Staff stations. So the fan service is nice.

Each episode reveals flashbacks. Those are handled pretty well. Just like the show, you will see people from 815 in the flashbacks. And you can explore the flashbacks for information related to the character. So it does that well. And the story isn’t completely awful. I think if you put it up against some episodes of the show, it would be the best of the worst. Hanso makes an appearance in the game, trying to acquire information on ESP and deadly weapons/[insert plot device here]. This could actually make a lot of sense when it comes to Lost and the island’s importance.

The producers have also said that the game had no bearing on the show. I hope that’s true because it would have changed everything. See, after you betray Jack at the Black Rock with Tom Friendly, you save them and escape. You run down to a boat. You talk to Locke, who seems to pop up awkwardly in every episode. And you leave. You wake up back on the beach just after 815 goes down. Your girlfriend comes up to you and the game ends. So its Dark Tower/The Matrix type story telling. Is Jack going to wake up after the crash at the end of season six? Not likely, fans would destroy the internet. But I can at least respect what they wanted to do.

Between that there is the actual game. Each section of the game is connected by jungle sections. These are more or less point to point missions. I loathe this. You don’t explore the jungle. They give you goals like “follow Vincent”, “follow the compass”, and “follow the wreckage”. I understand the need to keep it linear and direct the player towards a goal, but after I got killed by the smoke monster for the 5 time I was just about to quit playing. At one point in the game you get dynamite from the Black Rock. Just like the show, the dynamite is highly unstable; it was part of the episode. But, while the show used it to create tension, Via Domus just drags and bores. That’s because you can’t run with it. You have to walk. And it’s not just a short walk; you have to backtrack through the jungle dodging the smoke monster. It’s not any fun at all. So I’m not a fan of jungle sequences. Even with the ability to skip around after the first trip through.

I would have left combat out of this game too. I bought a gun and a clip of ammo. At the end of the game I ended up firing 5 shots. I used two for a guy in a tree, two for the dynamite, and one for this dude who was beating up on Mikhail.  Do it right, or don’t do it at all. Combat has to work in the favor of the context of the game. It can’t just be an afterthought.

Also, each episode has a “previously on Lost” segment that recaps the last level. Problem is that some levels only took 15 minutes to complete so you are getting recapped on something you literally just finished. And if you die at the beginning of a level sometimes, then you have to watch the whole thing over again. It doesn’t let you skip any cut scene and it doesn’t remember which ones you’ve already seen. It’s pleasing to see them attempt to recreate the show, but pick and choose your battles when it comes to that presentation part of the show.

Then there are the puzzles. These stupid fuse boxes. Remember Bioshock? Remember the unreasonably high amount of those water pipe puzzles you had to solve? Here’s another example of that. You have to pixel hunt the fuses down, and then solve the puzzles. You pixel hunt every item in the game, and I hate it. This leads into my other big complaint from when I got to the Flame station. The lights are out, so you navigate the darkness through the tunnels. Um, no thanks, not fun. But it didn’t end there. I also had to find the fuses for the puzzle at the end. So if you miss one, you have to retrace your steps through the darkness. My little tip for this game, buy 6-7 torches at the beginning of the game, and get a lantern just in case. There are cave portions in the dark too so you will need the help. And grab the gun/ammo from Charlie when you can. Those are the only items you’ll need.

They also have you enter the numbers in this game. I expected that would come up. What I didn’t expect were the Dharma Initiative Tests. For each computer you access, you are forced to do sequenced math problems or whatever. Math problems, not fun! It’s a video game, have we all forgotten what makes those fun?

Then there is the character interaction. No Lost character acts the right way. I don’t know which voices they got from the real actors, but it’s blatantly obvious which ones they didn’t get. Jack is alright, Kate is passable, but Locke is pretty bad. At times you think its close, but other times he moves into “the old pervert from Family Guy.” When you find Michael cutting wood in the jungle (for no visibly good reason), he wants to trade with you for supplies. The game has an economy where a book is worth $40, water is $10, and chopping wood two miles from the beach is priceless. So Michael wants equal value for the torch. They should have never bothered. See, Michael and Locke are people that would help others on the island. They would never demand something in return for their help. Not at that point in the show. So everyone immediately seems greedy, and that’s not Lost. The character models look pretty good though. I think the only odd one was Juliette who looked really weird. Pale skin, lifeless eyes, and super thin.

Graphically, it isn’t too bad. The beach is condensed but it looks like the show. They even have the tents and tables from the show. The Black Rock is awesome. The hatches are all recreated perfectly. The textures look nice, and the jungle does too. The smoke monster looks like a smoke monster should. I came across Hurley’s van in the jungle and that looked mostly like a van. So there’s that too!

I think taking time and budget into consideration they tried their best. You can’t fault them for being given a short development with a small team. Like I said, Lost is a great property to adapt. In my perfect world, I would have done something along the lines of a sand-box game. Re-create the island in such a way that you can explore without being guided. Each island structure has landmarks that fans can instantly recognize. So if you found the open meadow where the Staff was, you’d know you reached it. If you found the sonar fence then you’d be near the barracks. To acquire missions, talk to the NPC’s. Let me make my own character and create his/her story at my own pace. If you’re going to separate yourself from the storyline of the show, then you might as well go all the way.

If you’re not a fan of the show, you’re likely to hate the game. If you are a fan, you’ll be disappointed because it should be more. People that have never seen Lost are going to find it all very dull and confusing. A good game could be done after the sixth season has been completed. There’s just so many easter eggs in the show and so many details that could be taken advantage of. Kate’s horse, Sun’s garden, Eko’s brother’s plane. I don’t look at this game as a complete failure, because it has its moments. But it is shallow, and that’s something Lost has never been.

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