Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lost: Via Domus Review (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3)

It is usually extremely difficult for most movies or television programs to translate well onto a videogame. For one, it's almost a challenge to get the support of the full cast and crew of the movie/series to agree to spend the extra time in making the game. The other problem they face is that they are often rushed either to make a quick buck or ride the popularity wave of said franchise.

In my history of games, the last good TV show to translate into a solid videogame that I played was Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Xbox back when the system was still new; that was more than 6 years ago. Lost: Via Domus, is not a bad game, it's definitely not a good game either.

The game, based on the popular ABC (CTV in Canada) series recently completed its abbreviated fourth season. Lost: Via Domus was released earlier in 2008 to help tide over fans of the series between seasons. While the game does not bridge the gap between seasons, it does take part at various points in seasons one and two of the show.

In Via Domus, rather than playing as one of the regular cast members, you play as Elliot Maslow, a person on the plane who is suffering from amnesia. The main plot of the game is trying to help Elliot remember his past and at the same time trying to get off the Island. Since you don't remember who you are, you need to piece things back together. Since Elliot is a photo-journalist (something he re-discovers very early in the game), he knows that information about his past is available both on his computer and his camera. So the game starts you off by finding those two items. Once you do, that opens a whole new plot point which you must also uncover.

There are two main gameplay mechanics in the game. The first is your simple adventure game, where you must lead Elliot through different areas, collecting and talking to people for clues and solving puzzles to progress further in the game. The other, uses his photo-journalism past to uncover his history. These flashback moments are interesting as the do have some connection to some of the other characters and plots from the show. There isn't anything that is really important but like the show, everything is connected.

The controls in the game are alright, but nothing special. Majority of the game will have you collecting items and talking to people, but often, you only need to trigger one character speech or one specific item to progress.
You will spend most of your time walking or running by pressing the Right Trigger button. There are only a few times when there are 'action' moments, but even those are easy to do.

The game's story is fair, but nothing that rocks or changes the plot of the show. If you are a fan of the show, you won't miss anything. At the same time, if you're not a fan of the show, you might not understand some of what is going on or the people on the island as there is little to no history of events occurring during that point in the show (for example why the first time you talk to Sun, she speaks to you in Korean, but the next time, she's fluent in English).

An interesting aspect of the game is that it is split into 7 mini episodes. Each episode begins with a 'Previously on Lost…'; has the intro and even the 'Lost' closing for each episode. This is good if you play the game in short bursts and want it to feel like a show, but realistically, you can finish most episodes in about 30-40 minutes, so seeing these over and over again does become a strain.

The characters from the show are almost there just for show. While you'll talk to most of the cast, they seem little more than just there to fit disk space. You never really interact with them unless you need to trade for items or to get clues. I also had a problem with the interaction with characters as they will either give you horrible answers (which sometimes don't make sense) or don't progress the story further.

The characters are all represented in the game fairly well, but the voice-acting is extremely poor. Outside of a few of the characters and all of your favorites with the exception of Ben are voiced by someone other than the actor themselves. Locke sounds like an old farmer and Sawyer sounds like he's constipated. There are even times when while the characters are in the game, they serve no real purpose (Michael, Desmond and Sawyer in particular)
At the same time, while the characters do look like themselves, their animations are down-right awful. At one point, near the end of the game, when you interact with a character, she looks like a ghost, when she should be expressing herself much more dramatically. Elliot and the other 'made for the game' characters do look a bit better, but it just seems weird.

Voice acting might be poor, but at least the game does use the solid Lost score very well. The game sounds great when the tension is rising and helps keep you interested. It does save the game, but not greatly.

While the game is short and relatively easy, there are times when frustration will occur. The controls of your character are decent but do pose a problem sometimes, especially when you are trying to search for items. The game also does not offer a skip feature during cut-scenes, so if you fail a portion or happen to die, you'll have to go through some long cut-scene that you wish you could skip. Overall, you should be able to finish the game in about 5 hours; shorter or longer depending on if you want to find all the game's achievements and actually bother to ask every possible question available to you.

Outside of the interesting flashback moments and some little treats here and there, you really don't have any reason to play this game. As I stated before, they didn't add anything that would benefit the fan of the show, so there is no incentive to play. Also, once you beat the game, you have no reason to play again as there are no bonus features to unlock, which would have made the value of this title so much better and more appealing the fans.
If you haven't played this game but are a fan of the show, I recommend at least renting this. Considering the show won't return until January of 2009, this could help you remember some of the environments and moments from the show, but it doesn't substitute the solid show. If you aren't a fan, I strongly suggest you avoid this because it won't turn you into one.

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