Lost Via Domus: the videogame review
Lost has been made into a computer game, and Lost-devotee James has spent the weekend playing it. Was he impressed?
Nothing screams "quality" like the phrase "licensed game." Unfortunately, it's usually screaming the word "bad" immediately prior to it. Fir those unaware of his phenomenon, let's just say that the Transformers movie adaptation isn't exactly a forgotten gaming classic and somewhere in the New Mexico desert, thousands of buried copies of Atari's ET game are making their point heard.It's with some trepidation, then, that I dig into the Lost game. God knows they've tried to make it work, involving as many people from the show that showed any interest at all. Principal Lost writers, Lindelof and Cuse, have "plotted" the game - though the comics fan in me is cynically aware how little work a credit for "plot" actually requires, so you can be sure they weren't placing much emphasis on this.
It's all an attempt to seamlessly weave a new character into the story of Lost - an amnesiac photojournalist named Elliott, who is ostensibly one of the few survivors of Oceanic 815 we haven't met on the TV series. You may remember the last time new Lost characters sprang forth from that particular limbo state, they found themselves buried alive after fairly severe rejection from the fans, so it's a good job that no-one's going to take this game remotely seriously.
And, see, there's the problem. The absence of a substantial percentage of the TV show's cast means that an aura of illegitimacy hangs over the game, making it hard to accept as a genuine part of the Lost canon. Admittedly, There's probably not much of an alternative than to use stand-ins for the voices as they do, but it all contributes to a feeling that this game is really nothing more than sophisticated fan-fiction. While there's a certain geeky glee to be had in visiting familiar island locations, it's unfortunately not a feeling that carries well into the gameplay itself.
Translating Lost's signature flashback mechanic into the game was certainly a good idea, but in practice, it brings with it all the problems of the show - each flashback utterly breaks the rhythm of the game, slowing down the action on the island. The flashbacks require you to take a specific photo, and will loop endlessly until you get the required snapshot. Fair enough, if you don't spend too long on it, but as you can imagine it has the potential to drive people to the brink of their sanity. Breaking the game into 7 mini-episodes was also a great idea and a nice nod to the show's own episodic nature, but ultimately doesn't really add anything beyond aesthetic quality.
Speaking of aesthetics - the game does thankfully look really nice, at least when you're outdoors. It's a pity that the immediate thrill of seeing these locations realised in three dimensions doesn't last long, as the game's poor mechanics and acting aim to keep you constantly disappointed. Let's hope you're entertained by the fuse-arrangement minigame, because you'll find yourself deep within it practically every time you want to open a new door anywhere. The adventure elements are thin, and the survival elements seem ridiculously tacked on - we all love the smoke monster, but it's rarely this persistant, or easy to outrun.
Ultimately, a succession of technical and artistic failures culminates in making Via Domus a distinctly average affair. Even if you enjoy it enough to play the entire way through, you'll likely find it remarkably short. Certainly there's no reason to bother unless you're a serious Lost fan, and even then, don't count on enjoying it much.