Lost: The Video Game for the 360 arrived today. Being a fan of the show, I got excited. Not heaps excited, but moderately excited. The sort of excited a platypus would feel if it had any concept of just how uniquely freakish it is.
You want to know about the game, don't you? Sure, I can do that.
It opens like an episode of the show. We're introduced to a new character, Elliott, a photojournalist who turns out to be the player. The plane breaks up, people get sucked out of windows, etc., and the lights go out. Then we wake up on our backs in the middle of the jungle, Jack-style.
Except we can't remember anything.
We get up and walk around, examining some plane seats using the Y button. Then, we see a figure in the distance. Is it Jack's dead father? No, it's not. It's some chick we don't know. As we run up to her, we're distracted by a body caught in a tree. When we look back, she's vanished.
Cue Twilight Zone music. I'm thinking it's not so bad, a little linear, but it's an adventure game so that's how things normally roll. And then we had a flashback.Okay, so the flashbacks are interactive. Good idea, right?
As long as Ubisoft has nothing to do with them, then probably. But whoever came up with the mechanic for the game's flashbacks needs to be fired. Oh, and the quality assurance team that let such a frustrating feature into the final build needs to be fired too.
So, how does it work? Flashbacks serve to advance the game by filling the holes in Elliott's memory. They also provide hints on how to progress. In order to "complete" a flashback, you need to take a photo at the right time. Because Elliott takes photos, remember?
Somehow, Ubisoft transformed the simple act of taking a happy snap into an absurd gauntlet of trial and error.
To actually take a photo, you not only need to get the zoom right, but the focus as well. On the Xbox 360, the bumpers and triggers take care of these functions. If you take the shot and it's not right, a pair of lights in the bottom right of the viewfinder will let you know if it's your zoom or focus that needs correcting. If you fail to take the photo within a certain amount of time, the section replays itself.
Firstly, if this guy's a photojournalist, surely he can afford a camera with autofocus? Secondly, if the section's just going to replay the last 15 seconds until I get it right, why bother complicating it? If I wanted to jerk around with a camera I'd play Pokemon Snap.
If you can manage through the first flashback, you'll have a chance to check out the beach crash site. Should I mention this is after another irritating section where you have to follow Walt's dog Vincent? If you lose sight of Vincent you can hit Y to call out to him, but, in another example of excellent game design, this stops you in your tracks and transfers you to a first-person camera. In the end, it was easier to just fail, restart and stay with the dog the entire way.
If you screw up during any section, be it from dying or getting lost in the jungle (this happens a lot), you're forced to start at the last checkpoint. If there were survivors you had to talk to, you'll have to talk to them again. When are developers going to learn that checkpoint systems aren't just bad, they're shit.
Big piles of shit-covered shit mountains.
The first puzzle of the game involves redirecting a fuel line to avoid an explosion. I found the puzzle confusing, though I'm happy to admit I'm not good at puzzles. The funny thing is, in the next scene I was able to interact with the puzzle again and undo the fuel redirection. As expected, nothing exploded.
I'm a regular saboteur, I am. That, or it's another example of bad design and QA.
There's a rudimentary bartering system in the game. Once you select the option from the conversation menu, you'll be presented with your inventory and that of the survivor you're trading with. If you want to buy something, you'll have to give its dollar value in fuses, fruit and other bits and bobs. Sawyer is the first character you can trade with, and he's surprisingly cordial compared to his TV counterpart.
Before you start bartering however, you'll want to run around the beach picking up coconuts, as they're worth $2 in trades. That's what I spent a few minutes doing. I can't remember when I saw Jack or Kate doing this on the show, but hey, this is a game, right? Picking up coconuts is sweet gameplay, right?
Once you get back into the jungle, you'll exchange your coconut escapades with papaya shenanigans. Except papayas are only worth a buck in trade. I felt rorted.
Going by the Internet previews, the game shares characters and plots with the show, but not the other way round. So fans expecting reveals or insider info, you're out of luck.
At the very least you'd expect the cast to be behind the voices of their characters. Sadly, Locke, Sawyer and a few others are all voiced by pretenders. Pretenders, damn it!
As a fan of the series, it's disappointing, though not surprising, that Lost: The Video Game is seven degrees of nasty. If this is what Ubisoft reckons being a survivor on a mysterious island would be like, I'd prefer to have died in the crash.
Maybe it'll get better, but right now I'm seeing a five out of ten.