Lost: Via Domus

Written by Joe Martin

March 7, 2008 | 08:02

Tags: #abc #abrams #dharma #jack #kate #license #locke #lost #numbers #review #television

Flashback!

What’s worse though is that this is only the start of things and there’s a lot more to get infuriated, bewildered or sad about in the game.

But first, in order to be fair, we really should look at what the game does well.

For starters, the game is incredibly true to the source material and is faithful to the show right down to the tiniest of tiny details. This is something that’s most noticeable once you manage to get inside the hatch and have a look at all the little bits that make up the set in the show. Playing these segments on a decently sized screen is enough to bring a chill down the spine of anyone who’s a big fan of the TV show.

At times it’s clear that the developers have at least tried to do something clever too – take the flashback sequences for example. Flashbacks form an integral part of the game as they let the player rediscover parts of their identity and, although the mechanic of these segments is pretty horribly broken, it’s understandable how it was broached and incorporated into the game proper.

Lost: Via Domus Flashback!
Click to enlarge

Flashbacks work thusly. At set points in the game the player will have his memory jogged – usually after a conversation with an NPC and the level will fade into a flashback sequence.

The player was a photographer in the past and photos are a major theme throughout the game—you can take photos of certain things in order to unlock achievements and extra content—and photographs feature prominently in flashbacks too. A torn up photo will appear before your eyes and you’ll enter the time of the memory, camera in hand. To properly recall the event you’ll need to snap a photo identical to the torn up one you just saw.

It sounds kind of cool, right? Sort of interesting and nifty? It totally is and the designers are clever for thinking up such a situation that ties in a common theme of the show with a plausible game mechanic and the character that the player is controlling.

Unfortunately, flashback sequences are utterly broken in design too. You only get momentary glimpses of the torn photo at a time, which means you’ll sometime have to keep resummoning them for another look. When taking a picture with the camera too, you’ll have to make sure that you get it pixel perfect in terms of framing, zoom and focus. The first two aren’t hard, but knowing the right place to stand and how to get the focus just right makes swallowing razor blades seem like a fun hobby.

Lost: Via Domus Flashback!
The graphics in the jungle are fantastic

Still, all of that would be entirely forgivable if it weren’t that these sequences are entirely unskippable. You just can’t progress until you get the photo right and, even when you know what you’re doing, that can take a long time. The ideal way around this is obvious – give players the basic story information they need first, then make the photo bit optional if they want to get extra details. As it is, flashbacks are an inventive piece of thinking and storytelling that are unfortunately turned into a barrier between the player and the game.

There are other parts of the game too that feel completely out of place in both the game design and the Lost universe – namely fixing fuses. Fuse puzzles pop up regularly throughout the game and are essentially not dissimilar to the hacking puzzles in BioShock

However, what was an acceptable frustration in BioShock (you could after all play the game without needing to hack at all) is in Lost: Via Domus an exercise in frustration. These sections aren’t especially hard or anything, they just clearly don’t belong in the game and serve only to slow players down and ruin any immersion they might have generated in between the “Previously in Lost…” episode endings.

Damn, this page was supposed to be about the good things in Lost: Via Domus
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