Since 2004, Lost has been a favorite TV show of mine. A deep, mysterious ensemble piece with top notch acting, interesting storylines, often times frustrating twists and slow, dramatic dialogue always created one of the best shows on TV. It has finally crossed over into the world of popular culture, with ARG’s, action figures, music and, of course, a video game appropriately titled “Lost: Via Domus.” Like most games based on movies and TV shows, “Via Domus” is the type of game that you would be scrutinized when purchasing in the store; receiving dirty looks from the cashier for shelling out over $30.00 for a game that will likely suck. Thankfully, “Via Domus” tries to avoid the pitfalls that plagues many games based on TV shows, and does succeed. Barely.
You star as an amnesia stricken man named Elliot, who is a survivor of the doomed Oceanic Flight of 815 that crash landed on a seemingly deserted island in 2004. You, along with the other survivors based on the TV show, must explore the island, unlock its mysteries, and find a way home, all the while solving puzzles, interacting with characters, and avoiding the islands black smoke monster.
A lot of what you will see in the game will only make sense if you are a fan of the show, and it might only make sense if you are an avid fan at that. Every secret item, every Easter egg in the game is essentially homage to the mythos that the TV has created, from the infamous numbers sequence to the mysterious hatch found buried deep in the jungles of the island. The game captures the mood of this mystery as well by dropping hints on the storyline wherever you go, leading to an interesting finale that, while satisfying and revealing some questions, only adds more to the mythos in the long run.
Elliot himself feels like a real castaway that could fit with the dynamic personalities in the show, a troubled past and the theme of redemption coming on strong throughout his story. When you find out the reasons for him being on this island, you will be shocked and angered, but possibly feel pity for him by the time the final seconds of the game are complete. Here the game shines it’s best, excellent writing from Damon Lindelof and John Meadows on their part, as they are able to recreate the shows persona, mysterious, drama ridden, filled with a balanced amount of tension and release, and providing enough to seemingly explore in such a short time.
Sadly, only the very devoted of Lost fans will go the distance on this one. The game is broken into seven episodes, each of them lasting, at beast, a half hour each. Some of them are criminally short; others may take some time to complete, depending on what needs to be done. One section of carrying unstable dynamite while Elliot is being shot at by the Others and being chased by the black smoke monster comes to mind, as you can't run or else you are blown to kingdom come. But the game is done after four-five hours easily. Hell, it took me two days to beat it and I did it in two hour sittings.
The game also suffers a lot from what plagues other games in this adventure/puzzle genre, such as Indigo Prophecy. Essentially, there is no gameplay. Sure, you can trade items found in the jungle for a lantern and other supplies, but it is so ridiculously easy to find items it takes out the challenge of this mechanic. You also get to use a pistol, but there are really only three times when you need to use it, and the rest of the time it’s just rusting in the back of your pocket. In between episodes there is also no exploration, since everything is a linear passage to the next step in the puzzle. The games few puzzles are few and far between and also are sadly easy to complete.
Another broken concept is the interaction with the survivors, who you can talk to for information or starting a new mission for yourself. These are totally scripted, and much of the dialouge that they do provide relates to nothing that can help you, or is as cryptic as the next fortune cookie you read at the China Buffet. Most of it contains in jokes from the Show, and again only fans will get it, but it is very unnecessary to have extra dialouge that reveals and advances nothing to the game, or even warrant the need to ask a question. It’s a horrific system, one that pales in comparison to the systems seen in games like Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic.
Graphically the game is pretty good. The areas look organic and are finely detailed, and despite it being linear, there is still a lot to look for throughout the jungles and the secret hatches of the island. The enviornments are varied, but redundant, and the character models look like their counterparts in real life, and move fluidly enough when they do walk.
They do sound horrible though. The voice acting is not bad, but it’s also a shame that they could not get the original actors to reprise their roles here, which diminishes the entire experience significantly. Of those that did, only actors Michael Emerson and Emile De Ravin, who play Ben and Claire on the show, were recognizable, and even then a majority of the characters were underused. Sawyer and Charlie act as merchants, while Kate, Jack and Locke get the lion’s share of scenes that count. Everyone else is there for flavors sake, it seems, and most of them, like Jin, Claire, and Desmond, have only one scene in the entire game, and each has nothing to do with the plot what so ever. At least the games musical score is great, matching the mysterious mechanical sounds of the show and giving that other worldly quality to the island itself.
So “Lost: Via Domus” is a very short game and pretty much breaks all the rules in what makes a good video game, but it is still successful enough to complete the objective of the game in the first place, recreate the Lost experience for a new character. It has the feel of the show, has an excellent script and the last five minutes of the game are well worth going to the end. Like Indigo Prophecy, the story carries it from the bargain bin enough to get a play-through, and is easily a must have for fans of the TV show. For those who can care less about Lost, they should skip it, because they won’t understand what’s going on, and loathe the gameplay even more. If you are a fan, however, I would rent this for a weekend, because one play through is all you need to get Lost for a few hours.
Final Score- C-