Monday, March 3, 2008

XBOX 360 REVIEW: LOST: Via Domus

Reviewing a game like LOST: Via Domus is almost a pointless exercise. The game is specifically geared at a specific group of people: fans of the TV show. And more specifically, gamers who watch the TV show. If you don't watch it, you aren't going to like the game. If you want to watch it at some point you should absolutely not play the game as it will spoil much of Seasons One and Two for you (the time period during which this game takes place), as well as certain aspects of Season Three, and you won't understand most of it anyway.

As such, the rest of this review can also be considered spoiler territory, at least in regards to the show, if not the game.

A LOST game pretty much needs to do two things: First, it needs to tell a good story. If you're a fan of the show that's your main concern. Secondly, it needs to let you visit all the interesting places you've seen in the show. On this second point the game doesn't disappoint. Being able to walk around the innards of the Swan Station (better known as "The Hatch") and "push the button" is very cool. The environments and sound effects are true to the show and the game features original music from series composer Michael Giacchino.

The voice acting isn't great, but it isn't awful either. Most of the principle characters (Jack, Kate, Sawyer etc.) are voiced by stand-ins who have varying degrees of success in their emulation (Jack= good, Sawyer=bad). The odd thing is, the characters who are voiced by the original actors almost sound worse. Michael Emerson (Ben) does a decent job, but Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond) sounds like he recorded his lines on his lunch break. He sounds less like Desmond than Matthew Fox's stand-in sounds like Jack. Same goes for Sun and Jin, who pretty much only speak Korean in the game.

The characters models are clearly recognizable, even down to their mannerisms, even if they have a fair bit of that uncanny valley ugliness. Again though, for whatever reason, Desmond's character model looks nothing like him and also sports possibly the worst hairdo ever.

As far as the story's not terrible.

The major problem is that the character you play as, an amnesiac who can't even remember his own name after the crash, was created specifically for this game and has never (and presumably will never) appeared in the show. This creates a Nikki and Paolo situation where you're asked to believe that this guy crashed on the island along with everyone else but you've just never seen him before. There's good reason that this game isn't going to be part of LOST canon. It's more of a "what if" scenario.

The game takes place over seven "episodes" which are presented exactly as such. Each one begins with a "Previously on Lost" recap (which is frustratingly unskippable) before getting into the actual gameplay which consists more or less of running around the island doing fetch quests and the occasional puzzle. This is the area of the game which could've used the most fleshing out as there are only two types of puzzles and you do each a handful of times throughout your journey. As journey's go, it's a short one. Each episode takes about 30-45 minutes to complete and going back to finish up any achievements you missed might take you another hour tops.

In classic LOST fashion, the ending will make you say "WTF?" out loud, and leaves you with more questions than answers . The thing is, with the show you always have another episode and season to look forward to, leading up to what will hopefully be a satisfying conclusion. Unless they make a sequel to Via Domus, it's unlikely you'll ever get to see the further adventures of Mr Amnesia, making the story somewhat more pointless than it already was.

Under no circumstances should you pay the $60 retail price for this game. Ubisoft is selling the PC version for $30, so it's anyone's guess why they are charging more than $40 for the 360 version. Rent it if you can, it won't take you more than 5-6 hours to see everything the game has to offer.

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