52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 10
Lost: Via Domus
Release Date: February 28, 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Lost: Via Domus is a new game based off the TV series "Lost". As a rule of thumb, I do not expect much from games based off of movies or TV shows, as I am always disappointment by the results when I do so, but for this game, I did have high expectations. I had good reasons for this, as this game was being developed by none other than Ubisoft Montréal, and from my previous game write-ups, you all know how much I like Ubisoft Montréal. Also unlike most movie tie-ins, the developers did have 4 seasons worth of complex storylines already developed for the TV show available to them. The show's premise is perfect for the adventure game genre, so how could they fail in delivering a quality gaming experience.
The first time I played Lost: Via Domus, I had never watched a single episode. In fact I know very little of the show other than little bits of information that I overheard from co-workers around me that used to talk about it all the time. As a result, I did not know anything of the "Lost" storyline other then the fact that the show is based on the adventures of a handful of survivors of an airplane crash on a somewhat deserted island. My ignorance of the TV show and it’s characters, plots and events was an obvious obstacle in my enjoyment of the game as the developers must have assumed that most gamers who opted to play this game would be fans of the show. Since then, I have watched all 4 seasons and am now well versed in Lost mythology. Will this new fact change my opinion of the game?
The game centers around Elliot, a previously unknown survivor of the Oceanic Flight 185 crash. During the crash, Elliot bumps his head and now cannot remember who he is (very cliché but yet very convenient at the same time). This is main goal of the game, to recover his memories and to escape the island of course. Most of all the other characters in the game are from the TV show.
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The game itself is an adventure game, and on this front, it delivers a somewhat satisfying, albeit short gaming experience. To recover his memories and escape the island, Elliot needs to complete a series of tasks that will move the story along. The game is divided up into seven episodes, each featuring a memory puzzle, in that our hero must take a picture in his flashback that will trigger a memory. Then the focus is returned to the island to take action(s) that has little to nothing to do with the memory regained. The game offers little in way of challenges to seasoned adventure gamers. All parts of the game feel extremely scripted and linear. I could not help but feel that the game was developed for non gamers as there is very little in the way of discovery. The only real challenging part of the game is the fuse puzzles. Several locations in the game has Elliot solve a puzzle in which he must supply a precise amount of voltage to several terminals using one of three different fuses to complete the circuit. Each fuse will offer a different amount of resistance reducing the amount of voltage flowing in the circuit. These little mini games are actually challenging, especially the final ones. Hint: After completing a fuse puzzle, fuses can be remove for later use saving Elliot (and the gamer) a lot of time searching for fuses or having to trade for them.
I feel that Ubisoft Montréal wasted a great opportunity to create a truly outstanding gaming experience. The game introduced me to all types of interesting locations, characters and plot lines, only to leave them fall flat. Remember that I had not watched a single episode of Lost the first time I played the game. I felt that even after having completed the game, I did not know the TV show characters any better than before playing the game. Sure I knew that Sayid could fix electronics, but not a single thing about who he was, and what made him tick. The same can be said about everyone else in the game. I now knew that Kate was an criminal, and that Locke used to be crippled but nothing more than that. I did not know how or why there is a ship in the middle of the jungle. I did not understand why there was a dead polar bear or a mechanical shark in the game. The game left me totaly confused about the role Ben played in the story and what organization he worked for. Only after watching all 4 seasons of Lost did I receive the answers to my questions (well some of them at least).
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The backstory in Lost is among the best stories ever to grace the silver screen, but you would never know it by just playing this game. Maybe the developers were not at liberty to provide these answers, since it did not involve the main plot, but I am sure they could have provided some extra background information for the newbie to the series. It would not have been extremely difficult to add a few simple books in the library filled with Lost lore. All I remembered after finishing the game for the fist time (still had not watched an episode at this point ) was that I could tell is that Sun and Kate must be pretty nice looking in the TV show as their digital recreations were very flattering (after watching the show, I concluded I was correct). That is one thing I can say about this game, it does look very nice.
As it stands, Lost: Via Domus will not really satisfy anyone other than the hardcore fans of the TV show, as there is a startling reveal at the end of the game (I did finish it, and I know what the big reveal is, but I will not spoil it for anyone). Even if you are a huge Lost fan, or an avid adventure gamers, rent this game, for it can be completed in about five hours of gameplay, this including replaying some levels to get some missing achievements. Considering the source material, Lost: Via Domus had the potential to become this generations Myst, but now will be destined to be lost in the discount bin at your local retailer.