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Lost: Via Domus

I am well and truly hooked. When I’m not watching the latest episode of Lost a few days before it reaches England, I’m waiting for the next one to air. And in that question mark period between the two, I frantically search through various fan sites for theories and other harebrained observations that normal people wouldn’t spot first time round. Being hooked also makes people very vulnerable to big name corporations that would perhaps like to cash-in on the show’s immense popularity – fully aware that Lost-whipping boys such as myself will more than likely succumb to the temptation and buy it.

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But would Ubisoft really do that? The publisher responsible for titles such as Beowulf, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the countless CSI game tie-ins to name but just a very few?

Lost: Via Domus takes place at around season 1 and 2 of the actual show, with a select few characters from later seasons making a brief appearance. Players assume the role of a photojournalist who as a result of the crash, suffers from a slight case of amnesia. The main objective then is to slowly rebuild missing pieces of this character’s life, hopefully discovering why he sees the things he does, and why certain people appear to be after him. It’s not going to rival the real life show for its driving narrative, but for those that stick with the game (and at just a few hours you really shouldn’t have trouble doing so), the ending – like the show itself – will leave you with some puzzling questions to go make sense out of.

The main method by which you remember is through flashbacks. A prominent feature for anyone that has seen an episode of Lost, they usually require players to take photos of a key incident in order to remember something. Surprisingly, these sections are nice breakaway from on-island action, and are used sparsely enough for them not to become an annoyance.

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A television programme like Lost is successful because it creates an ensemble of characters you can really care for. You’re not just interested in whether Desmond ever meets Penny again, who will finally win Kate’s heart or if Sayid’s transceiver he made from sticks and coconuts will pick up a signal – you’re fascinated. You show genuine compassion and empathy for when bad things happen to good people that aren’t even real. So nailing the cast is absolutely imperative, but unfortunately, this is one aspect was seemingly neglected until the last minute. Visually, most of the Losties look like their real life counterparts, and at this point it seems they’ve nailed the authenticity down with some pretty decent nuts and bolts. It’s when they open their mouth that things become an issue; aside from perhaps Ben and Desmond, no one sounds anything remotely like how they should. The main culprits being Charlie and Locke – it gets so embarrassingly inaccurate players will be hard-pressed not to burst out laughing whenever they have something to say.

So with this in mind, actually interacting with the characters can be quite a socially uncomfortable situation you’ll sadly be forced to face on numerous occasions. Next to a game like say Mass Effect – the socialite of the videogame world – Lost: Via Domus is like speaking to a special needs kid with an uncontrollable stutter; it’s awkward, there are a number of blank silences and you won’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. However, conversing with your Jacks and Kates et al is a necessity required to progress further into the game.

Controls come in a mixed bag. When you’re in an open space, things move along swimmingly, but it’s when players have to navigate between objects and small corridors that things become unwieldy to the point of tedium. Clipping issues combined with some infrequent slowdown can, and often does result in a player’s untimely demise. This becomes extremely aggravating at certain points where you’ll die not because of your own incompetence, but because of shoddy gameplay mechanics. The game then flippantly expects you to sit through unskippable cutscenes as some kind of sick punishment.

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Something Ubisoft have managed to capture is the whole atmosphere the show exudes in spades. The jungle – which is one of the main focal points in Lost – is for the most part an extremely impressive visual display. Foliage will brush under your character’s feet, and you will almost be able to feel the sunlight (which doesn’t scatter right apparently) glisten through the canopy. Key set-pieces throughout the first three seasons look just like you’d expect, and Ubisoft have even included areas that have never been seen before. It’s nothing earth shattering in the context of the series as a whole, but it’s a nice touch all the same.

If you’re not a fan of Lost in any way, there is just no way I can possibly recommended this game to you. It is merely a spin-off to a series that has developed an incredibly large cult following over the years, and even then, only the most ardent of Lost fans should consider picking this title up. Strip away the shiny coating, and what you’re left with is an average adventure title.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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