Review – LOST: Via Domus

March 11, 2008 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

Have you ever been watching Lost, enjoying one of the best shows on television today, and wondered what it would be like to be a survivor of Oceanic flight 815? Then Lost: Via Domus is the game for you! Or at least… it wants to be.

The game centers around a survivor from the crash that you will never see on the show itself. The action picks up immediately after the mysterious crash, and your character is quick to realize that he lost his memory. You know nothing about the man or his past, save that he was evidently a photojournalist – even his name is a mystery when you first begin. This serves both to differentiate itself from the hit television show and to give you a somewhat fresh perspective of life on the island.

The game tries to be as much like the series as possible, going as far as to make each section of the game a separate “episode” beginning with the all-to-familiar, “Previously, on Lost” voice-over before a short recap of earlier events. If you’ve ever watched the show, then you probably know that each episode prominently features flashbacks of various characters, giving you a look at their life before the fateful crash. Via Domus works in much the same way. While most of the game takes place on the island, there are many flashbacks in which you get a brief look at your previous life, and are required to take pictures of various items, people and events in an effort to help your character piece together the loose bits of his lost memory. This works well as a story element, and is an interesting way of handling the main character’s amnesia.

You’ll encounter all the major characters you would expect to see. Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, Charlie, Hurley, Ben, Juliet… They all make appearances, sometimes long, sometimes brief. The storyline takes place during the events of the first two seasons of the show. Trouble is, while Lost fans will certainly recognize events and know what’s going on, anyone who doesn’t follow the show religiously will be entirely… well, lost. They events are depicted nicely, but nothing is explained in any detail whatsoever. I expect it would be near impossible to fully enjoy the game’s story if you aren’t already familiar with the plot. Which is something of a shame, as the story is indeed an interesting addition to the Lost saga, even if it’s not considered entirely “canon”.

The gameplay itself is a bit on the average side, but this could actually be considered a blessing. Video games based on licensed franchises are very, very rarely known for being quality products, but Lost: Via Domus is certainly acceptable. The team at Ubisoft did a nice job of capturing the essence of the show, focusing on plot and adventure rather than action – most of the time, anyway. They also did a fabulous job with environments, for the most part, giving everything a very “Lost-like” feel. As a fan, it’s admittedly exciting to enter the infamous hatch, only to find a computer inside beeping loudly, begging you to input “the numbers”.

But while you do indeed input said numbers, carrying dynamite from the Black Rock, and evade the Black Smoke, there are still things that you might want to do or see if you follow the show. Where’s Walt? Why can’t you play ping pong with Hurley? Why does Charlie sound nothing like Dominic Monaghan?

But it would perhaps be possible to look past all of this if it weren’t for Via Domus’ biggest problem: it’s far too short. The game can easily be completed – having seen everything there is to see – within six hours. Seeing as how the game retails for $60, that’s pretty unacceptable to most people.

If you don’t enjoy or aren’t familiar with Lost, then stay away. There’s nothing for you here. But if you’re a diehard fan of the show, then this is easily worth a rental – probably not a purchase. Lost: Via Domus is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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