Faithful followers of ABC’s Lost have had to wait more than three seasons for Ubisoft to release the first official videogame adaptation of the hit mysterious drama. As Lost: Season Four’s climatic eighth episode’s jaw-dropping cliffhanger approaches (c’mon, it’s inevitable), the arrival of Ubisoft’s Lost: Via Domus brings with it the promise of a new chapter in the Lost saga, seamlessly intertwined with the show’s canon, characters and locations. Gamers unfamiliar with the show need not apply; Via Domus is strictly for the hardcore Lost fanatic craving an extra “fix” to supplement time spent waiting for the next new episode.
Via Domus gets off to an auspicious start on PlayStation 3 (not Xbox 360) with a required seven-minute download before the opening act. A drink refill and bathroom break later, the world of Lost comes to life with an opening plane-crash sequence worthy of the show’s production values. Ubisoft has even built in the familiar rotating Lost title cards, the score from the show, and a “previously on Lost” segment between each “episode” of the game, which almost makes up for the atrocious PS3 file dump.
After awakening in the jungle a la Jack, players take control of a new character whose memory is “lost” in the aforementioned crash. Suspiciously or lazily, none of the other secondary 40-some crash members are ever seen, other than a couple of corpses on the beach. Via Domus isn’t concerned with those victims’ fates; it’s all about discovering who this character is through clues left on the island and experiencing flashbacks that require a “zoom and focus” camera mini-game to unscramble pictures that lead toward more clues.
Unlike the show, which never feels rushed, Via Domus crams all its content into a relatively slim gameplay time of approximately five hours, depending on how much time you spend looking around for items. Half of the time is spent tediously navigating confusing jungle paths and caves using rudimentary markers, all while being chased by the deadly snake-like smoke monster, who isn’t forgiving of the herky-jerky third-person controls. Emerging from the brush will uncover a number of season one and two locations such as the hatch, beach crash site and Black Rock, and even some locales never before seen. It’s just a shame that the journey to them, while visually stunning, is an exercise in videogame navigation teetering on the genre’s worst.
The other half of Via Domus is spent talking to and trading items with the familiar crash victims from the show and solving a bizarre mix of repetitive elementary puzzles and overly advanced ones. None of the original cast members lent their voices to the script, which is most obvious with Jack and Locke, who look like their respective ABC personas but sound like a distant relative. When the characters do talk via an RPG-inspired dialogue selection menu, the language is nothing more than stale one-liners that grow old after the first five minutes. If progressing through the story didn’t require interacting with Jack, Sawyer, Kate and the rest of the castaways for information and items, running past them would be the first and only option.
The puzzles required to solve Lost are the real puzzler here due to their lack of creativity and consistency. One such puzzle, to rebuild an electrical circuit with rotating fuses, is not only lame and drawn from other games like Metroid, but keeps popping up over and over throughout the story. The “smart” design of the Lost show’s twists and turns was completely “lost” in the videogame translation.
Part survival horror and part RPG, Lost: Via Domus comes up short in delivering a compelling gaming experience. Its short play time, unrefined controls and lack of creativity is all very puzzling, given the outstanding presentation, visual and musical design. Ubisoft clearly had high hopes for re-creating the Lost universe and the show’s atmosphere, which they’ve pulled off with flying colors. Unfortunately, they’ve done so at the expense of developing a game worth solving.
- Score: 5.8
- Ubisoft captured the visual spirit of the show, but the actual gameplay in the first LOST game is not worth the three-season wait.