Tech Games: Lost Meets Loading Times
posted by March 3 at 16:18 PMon
I ranted about TV-inspired video games just a few months ago. Generally, they’re crap. Cash-ins. Ways to wring a few extra bucks out of an IP. So why’d I go and get my expectations up for the Lost: Via Domus game?
Not even a year ago, I swore that I’d never watch the show. I’d weaned myself off of network television, particularly any series that were serial, and particularly any serial series that didn’t make any goddamned sense. I’d watched Days of Our Lives as a child, and the whole Hope/Gina amnesia thing… guh, the thought of it makes me sick.
But then I wound up dating a Lost-head, so I was practically forced to watch it all from the beginning and wound up loving the show—well, the stories and characters, not so much the plot twists. When its video game was announced about a year ago, I figured this would be the TV-to-game translation that actually worked. Perhaps the basic gameplay would be average, but the show has a lot in common with the Half-Life game series created just up the road in Bellevue—quality in scripts, acting and implementation of story. (You’ll even find Dharma logos and Hurley’s numbers scattered around Half-Life 2 if you look.)
Lost’s staff loves the show and will treat its game transition properly, I thought. But it’s a shame JJ Abrams didn’t hand the property to HL developer Valve. The “game review” is simple here—in Via Domus, you try to jog a new survivor’s memory by running around the island, talking to castaways, and occasionally running through the jungle. It’s really short. Should only take you a few hours to beat (and half of that time is padded with load times). Controls are awkward, and the game whisks by with only a few out-of-nowhere math/logic puzzles as a challenge. Rent, don’t buy.
But this is more than a merely bad game; everything that makes the TV show immersive and interesting has been gutted. The show’s cast members look like emotionless robots in game form—think the Final Fantasy movie, but much worse. In the first minute, you meet Kate, and while she gripes at you, her face is pretty much stoic, the mouth opening and closing like a puppet. Michael’s worse; his face is frozen in a rigid, bug-eyed state as he talks and yells to find his son (the above photo doesn’t do the in-motion horror justice). Also, most conversations are one-sided like the old Lucasarts games from the 80s and 90s—you ask a simple question, the character speaks a long-winded answer out loud that is supposed to give a hint. The TV show works when its varied characters are forced to interact and struggle, thereby making the oddities of the island real and human. Instead, in the game, you listen to quotes from Tickle-Me-Hurleys while picking up coconuts on the ground to trade to Sawyer for a torch.
This B-movie fare has enough issues—makes no sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the show, is a rip-off at $60 on the Xbox 360 (though it’s cheaper on PC)—but what bugs me is that the game’s shittiness comes off so flippantly. “Nobody’ll care that this game is a beating, cuz, hey, who has expectations for a video game? Get it out in time for the fourth season.” And to drive the point home, flip to the back page of the instruction booklet for a subscription offer for Lost Magazine. Wonder if they have a Q&A with Desmond about his favorite jogging shoes.
Lousy games are nothing new, but a national TV hit like Lost drives new people to games, and all the makers have to show for it is this embarrassment. The next wave of sophisticated, plot-driven games takes another blow—if a slapped-together TV show rehash can instantly sell a few hundred thousand, fewer good games will get funding greenlights, and that means the eventual Heroes game is going to suck total ass. Thanks, JJ.
(And for you Lost-freaks, the story and spoilers are after the jump.)
The game has very little to do with Lost canon; very little is revealed that has to do with the main series, except possibly the ending, so you really don’t need to play the game if you’re a freak for the show. You control an amnesiac photographer, whose quest is to find things on the island that eventually jog his memory. Let’s get Lost nerdy here… turns out that in Australia, your character had been tailing a sarin gas producer linked to the Hanso corporation, and the photo he took of this guy would have revealed his evil plot. The photographer cuts a deal with Ben to get off the island in exchange for leading Jack to him, but the main character winds up freeing Jack from the Others’ clutches, then runs to a boat that Juliet helps him reach. Here’s the kicker: When he gets on the boat, he follows a bearing of 325 degrees, as instructed by Ben. Halfway through his trip, he looks up and sees Flight 815 exploding above him. Then all fades to black, and he’s back on the island during the crash sequence, only this time with a friend from his past appearing to lift him from the ground. Seems to tie into what went down w/ Desmond in last week’s episode.
There, I just saved you $60 and four hours.