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Lost: Via Domus
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure
Release date: 02.26.2008
When the ABC television show Lost began in 2004 it became an instant hit with viewers, who watched it religiously trying to figure out every riddle and piece of information that would reveal the mysteries that were being concealed by the survivors of Oceanic Air Flight 815. The secret of the shows success is just that- ?secrets? ?Everyone seems to be something other than who they pretend to be, and the island itself is one big amusement park of puzzles. Developer Ubisoft has taken on the tasks of translated this into the game Lost: Via Domus (Latin for the way home), and while it?s an interesting attempt, it feels more like one big side mission than an actual game.

The first thing you should know is that you will not be playing as any of the characters from the television show; instead you will be taking control of a made up character introduced specifically for the game. You play a survivor of Flight 815 who has lost his memory in the crash; you won?t even know what your name is until later in the game. You will interact will familiar faces from the cast of the show such as Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley and the mysterious Locke, who are used more as background pieces to give you information. In addition, various new characters have been added to develop a separate storyline that centers on you trying to find a way off of the island. Anyone who may be concerned that this game may spill some secrets about the show need not worry, because the gameplay only involves some story elements already introduced in previous seasons of the show and stays away from new ground that hasn?t been covered.

The game is divided into six episodes that actually plays like the TV show, complete with a ?previously on Lost? segment that recaps parts of the game that you?ve already played. Just as the pilot episode did, the game starts on that infamous beach with tons of plane wreckage scattered all around and the few survivors who were lucky (using that term loosely) to not die in the crash. The game is played in third person perspective, but be warned, this is one of the slowest moving characters you?re going to play in a videogame. Just to get him to run from one side of the beach to the other seems like an eternity. Maybe this has to do with the environment being so small, because all you?re going to get to explore is a section of the beach, certain areas of the jungle, a cave, and another location that I won?t reveal to avoid spoilers. Otherwise that?s your entire playing field.

Your character does eventually learn that he was a photographer, so there will be objectives that require you to take photos to put together the pieces of the mystery. Some of these opportunities happen on the island and others will occur during flashbacks, where you will need to photograph an action that took place, such as someone being bribed or a face you?ve seen somewhere else before. Doing this triggers your memory and the scene is played out giving you more information about who you are and why someone on the island trying to kill you.

To stay alive on the island you need to find resources, such as water bottles, cans of food, and fruit that you will find scattered around which you can use to trade with others for things such as torches, kerosene, bullets, and of course a gun. You?ll also come across electrical fuses lying around that come in three different configurations, which must be used to activate various power grids throughout the game. These grids are puzzles that must be solved by figuring out how to align the fuses so that the volts add up correctly, activating the power. Unfortunately these fuse puzzles don?t offer that much of a challenge and there are way too many of them in this game.

Elements from the TV show such as the black smoke that haunts the jungle, the numbers, the others, and the DHARMA initiative, all intertwine with the mystery that surrounds you. So if you?re a huge fan of the show you may get a kick out of the way it?s done, or you just may find yourself disappointed because it doesn?t go further into these things, feeling more like a tease. It all depends on how you read into it.

Don?t blink, because this game is over as soon as it begins. An experienced gamer can knock this out in about five hours, and once it?s done there?s very little reason to go back. The producers of the show probably had a laundry list of things that could not be displayed in the game, but that?s its flaw. If this game took a bold step and revealed something new that would later end up in the show, fans of the show (gamers or not) would play it just to learn this new piece of information. If this game were packed into one of the DVD box sets for a season of the show as a bonus, it would work better. But as a standalone $60 game??Nah.
The island itself looks great, being smack on to how it looks in the TV show. The jungle scenes in particular look fantastic with foliage that rivals anything you?ll see in a Tomb Raider game. But again, this is all limited to sections, so even though you?ll be impressed you?ll still wish that there were more of this world to explore. While the backgrounds are well done, the same can?t be said for the character models. The actors from the TV show represented in the game all look like mannequins, with only one expression on their faces at all times, and the character you control looks like a constipated version of George Clooney. And again, he moves slower than a turtle on fire.

The voice work in the cut scenes are well done, drawing you in to hear all the information given in hopes of piecing together clues, but when characters speak during gameplay they sound very robotic. Most of the character?s vocals are done by voice stand-ins, but some of the actors from the show such as Yunjin Kim and M.C. Gainey provide their own voice tracks, but no Emmy's will be given out here. Actual music from the show fills the scenes, scored by Michael Giacchino, but other than that there?s no reason to crank up your speakers for this game.
replay value
Remember that line in the Gilligan?s Island song, ?A three hour tour?A three hour tour.? Well here you?re getting a five hour tour and then it?s over. There?s so much more that could have been done with this game, but nothing that expands the experience was introduced. Once you?ve played through it once there?s no reason to go back, unless you want to take another one of those annoying IQ tests. One plus is that this game throws achievement points at you, so no matter what if you play though it you?ll net as least 700 easy points.
bottom line
One day this game will be sitting in a bargain bin next to all those Superman Returns action figures; and if you?re a fan of the show that under $20 price will be a better deal. Maybe Lost was never meant to be a videogame and only works as TV show; either way play at your own risk and watch out for the black smoke.
Review by: Johnny McNair
Posted: 11/30/1999
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