The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Current Game Review: “Lost: Via Domus”

Written by: Ron Bricker

ImageThis week Ed Van Velsen reviews Lost: Via Domus, a game that promises to immerse fans into the mystery and suspense of the popular TV show. But is it anything more than a marketing ploy to cash in on the success of Lost?

When games that are based on TV shows, films or books are released, the average gamer expects poor quality at a high price. Sorry to say, but the Lost: Via Domus game does nothing but continue the crapfest that is licensed games.

Oceanic flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles suddenly loses control and crashes onto a deserted island, or does it? Only you and roughly 6 people survive the crash. Whilst the others try to figure out what is on the island, you have to try and remember you past. Soon enough, you and the castaways are discovering supernatural places and creatures. You investigate…

How could game developer Ubisoft go wrong with a proven story that has worked so well on television? Why of course, with boring and repetitive game play! This game tries to be a puzzler, adventurer, and role playing game all at once. Such a feat isn’t impossible. Just look at Bioshock, a game that had all of these elements in spades and still managed to be considered one of the best games of last year. But Ubisoft has combined potentially interesting elements of trade with other castaways and investigations into the island and your character’s past with the need to collect items and finish mini games along the way, and the end result is a game that gets boring really, really fast.

To make any kind of progress in the game, you are placed in flashbacks (a plot device familiar to fans of the show) where you have to take photos to remember your past, and solve problems by entering codes, following markers in the jungle, or routing power to a door or object. That’s all that the game offers, boring and repetitive game play that doesn’t even make you feel like you are stranded on a tropical island. Hell, the game completely skips on the fundamentals of being Lost (much less lost) – you don’t even have to sleep or struggle with finding food and water to survive.

Some of the game mechanics are absolutely terrible. While going through the forest I ran into a hostile holding an AK-47 (an automatic rifle), and once he started shooting at me the gun fired single shots and sounded like a sniper rifle. Come on! Any gamer worth his/her salt is going to know that doesn’t make any sense. Also, while traveling through a cave, you need a light source to explore or you die – why being in the dark is lethal is beyond me. I was at the very start of the cave where there was sufficient light and suddenly I died for no discernible reason. WTF? There are also plenty of graphical bugs. For example, the outside of the plane cockpit that was so memorably discovered in the early part of the first season was a different color each time I went to it. Hopefully, a lot of long loading screens will help you forget about that.

What the game does do well is recreate beautiful forests and characters. Every major character from the show looks almost picture perfect in the game. They also move well and have great facial expression that makes the characters interesting to talk to. Voice acting, even though not from all of the original actors, is top notch. The forest has detailed vegetation, rocks and lighting that makes it interesting to be in. I’m betting you will be as excited as I was the first time you set out to explore the forest; however, frustration will soon kick in after your first encounter with the invisible wall that keeps you from wandering off the beaten path the game has put you on.

Even though the story isn’t word for word from the show, it provides a reason for Lost fans and other gamers alike, to enjoy the amazement from the scenery and tension and wonder from the story that the game provides – That is if you can be patient enough to play the bloody thing. All of this exploring and puzzle solving doesn’t even seem to fit the main goal of the castaways, to get off the island. The game, just like the show, leaves you wondering what will happen next because it doesn’t go any further than season 2. Just in case you don’t know, "via domus" is Latin for “the way home”, maybe we could swim home? Oh wait sorry, the game doesn’t even allow you to swim in the best looking water I have ever seen outside of Crysis.

Yeah I know, you are probably thinking that I’m a bit harsh, but this game just doesn’t offer anything that stands out in a crowd. You are probably a fan of the show; if so, I’m not telling you to avoid the game. Just don’t expect much fun from a game that has 6 hours of boring content for your $50.