UPDATE: I’ve also done a review for ALL THREE versions of the game at UGO. Click here for the XBOX 360, PS3, and PC notes and which I think you should buy.
I got my copy of Lost: Via Domus yesterday and spent the greater part of the evening and this morning playing it. The highly anticipated game has you playing as a passenger from Oceanic 815 afflicted with amnesia. As you struggle to regain your memory, a sinister passenger demands you turn over a mysterious photo to him. Your guy is in some kind of trouble, to be sure.
As you explore your own mystery, you brush up against many of the key moments from the show and see aspects of certain locations that have never been revealed. To answer your burning question: no, there is nothing revealed in the game that really explains anything about any of the shows mysteries. The expansion on show mythology is mostly important to the game’s unique take on the universe.
True to their promise, Darlton have not allowed any proprietary canon to be vetted exclusively in the game. The game is strictly optional.
Realism – Most nextgen games do a pretty good job of providing sufficient atmosphere, but since Lost: Via Domus is based on “Lost,” it needs to duplicate the locations and people for fans that have studied them on a nearly academic level.
In this department, Via Domus is certainly acceptable. The terrain is the game’s strong point. The crash scene pulses with danger and devastation; the swan hatch seethes as much mystery as it did the first time we saw it on the show; the jungle is beautiful yet formidable.
The character models are truly the weak point of the game. Some of them are fantastically done: Desmond, Locke, Kate, and Jack being the firs to come to mind; others are laughable: Hurley, Michael, Claire.
The behavior of the characters is also variable. Jack, for instance, very early in the game becomes a human roadblock preventing you from going into the jungle to seek the cockpit and your mysterious camera. Jack is stubborn and commanding for sure, but a human roadblock? Never. And in the real world, we’d just skip down the beach a couple hundred feet and cut into the jungle anyway; or say, “Screw you Jack,” and walk around him.
Each situation is more or less free roam-ish, but there are definite tasks to be performed before you can move on, and sometimes they are not necessarily that enriched with a feel for the show itself. For instance, GAME SPOILER want to get around Jack? Have a flashback and you’ll learn that men are suckers for a damsel in distress. That will automatically give you the line of dialog “Claire has fainted.” This has the result of making you feel more like you are a prisoner to the game’s script then a free willed player.
The most disappointing factor of the game play is you are constantly limited in how much you can explore. Free reign to explore the island should have been a given to some degree. Instead, you find the beach camp lined by impassable arrangements of wreckage, and going too far astray in the jungle will result in asking you to start over.
Lostism – This was the big one for me. It has to be LOST. I have no trouble endorsing Via Domus as a Lost-like experience. Naturally, it is not in the same league as the story/show itself, as the story progresses you definitely realize you are more involved in the adventure of this character’s life than anything to do with the island, which is fine. The island serves as the background to a lot of personal stories.
The tendency with a video game, I think, would be to expect a high-octane action version of the show’s mythology. You’re Jack battling Dharma zombies in the jungle while you explore the temples of the island’s original inhabitants. Obviously this isn’t the case; instead you’re treated to mystery that brushes up against the shows key mythological moments and characters.
The voice acting of the characters is pretty bad. Maybe there is a legal reason why they can’t get the voices ‘perfect,’ but trust me, they are far from perfect.
Since it is not the original actors, however, this is completely forgivable.
Gameism – As much of a dedicated Lost guy as I am, I’m also a dedicated gamer and Lost: Via Domus has some series issues for me. The flow is, as I mentioned before, scripted and mechanical. Controls are great, there are less epic moments of the story that are frustratingly difficult while some key moments are surprisingly easy. Need to stop the plane from exploding? That’s simple math. Need to get through the caves to find the cockpit? One wrong turn and you’ll spend ten minutes traipsing around the jungle collecting coconuts to trade with Michael for torches.
The flashback sequences are well done. An effective device was found to make the experience compelling. You have fragments of a photograph flashed at you before you drift into a foggy replaying of the situation. Recapture the photograph with your camera an you unlock the flashback segment.
Final Verdict – Lost: Via Domus as a game hits its stride in the second act. Casual gamers who give the game a spin before purchasing probably aren’t going to buy this game. Lost fans, of course, won’t be able to stay away. This kind of narrow market appeal is a bad idea, because while Lost has an enormous fan base it’s relatively small when you winnow it down to gamers and split that over the three platforms supported. Hardcore adventure gamers without a Lost addiction will be quick to dismiss its scripted by-the-numbers quests.
Bottom Line: It’s a fair game that no Lost fan should go without. Non-Lost fans should stay away.
For those who are curious my gamertag is doctorarzt on xbox.