Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Game Review - Lost: Via Domus

Via Domus (or, if you're a UK resident like me the game has the somewhat less imaginitive title of Lost: The Video Game) is the first console game based on the hit television series Lost. Lost has been a big success, intriguing and drawing in audiences over four succesful series' so a branch into other media was inevitable. A "mobile" game was released on cellphones, roughly following the story of the first series, and Lost has been on the forefront of other media such as web-based "Alternative Reality Games" and "mobisodes" expanding on the story.

Rough Plot

In the game you play Elliot Maslow, a photojournalist suffering from amnesia as a result of the crash. Interacting with the other survivors you must try to survive on the island, discover who you are, and somehow try to make your way home.


The game mostly involves running around and looking at stuff. You explore parts of the island and investigate them closely to find out more. There are also several puzzles you must complete, usually involving electrical panels and fuses that must be placed correctly to direct the right amount of electricity to the different conduits. True to it's parent show there are also "flashbacks" in which you must use your camera to get the right shot and trigger your memory. You can also use your camera in game to photograph interesting items and unlock extras. The fun of the game is running around different locations, and there's more than a few hostiles willing to give chase, making a run through the jungle and exhilerating experience.

From now on there be SPOILERS

Sci-Fi Stuff

I've always wanted an opportunity to discuss the Sci-Fi aspects of Lost and so I will go over a few of them here. I also hope to discuss more games in the near future and I'll keep to this format when I do.

The Incident Room

OK, so this only features in the game, but it does tie nicely into Lost lore and since I'm discussing the game I think it's fine to discuss it here. During the game Elliot finds a compass inscribed "Via Domus" which supposedly leads home - the magnetism of the swan station interferes with it so he decides to go and do something about it. Triggering a 'lockdown' he finds several UV maps, one of which points to an additional section of the Swan. Going on a dangerous journey to get dynamite he blasts his way into a room holding a massive generator with several metallic objects stuck to it. The generator has collapsed partly and is sparking. Elliot turns it off without any ill affects, but the generator is very likely to be linked to the station and the need for the numbers to be put it etc. and was likely destroyed when Desmond triggered the discharge. After disabling it Elliot continues his quest.

The monster

The monster has always been one of the central mysteries of Lost. Only really heard in the first series it was later revealed to be a cloud of black smoke able to take many different shapes and attack with destructive force. Referred to as a defence mechanism for the island it's true origins have still not been revealed, but it makes a great threat. Elliot repeatedly encounters the monster, when travelling though the jungle he is chased by the monster and has to shelter in banyan trees, in caves the monster also lurks, but avoids his light and in one final sequence the monster chase Elliot then, when he faces up to it, studies him closely then dissapears into the jungle.

The Sonar Fence

This plays a small part in the game, but it is intriguing and fairly futuristic I think. The fence emits strong sonic ways so that if you pass through it you die almost instantly. The fence encircles the "Barracks" a DHARMA facility and so presumably built by them. The fence seems capable of also stunning a human and also repelling the monster.

OK, I've gona too far into the series and left the game behind, but i think there's enough there to qualify it as a Sci-Fi title.

Canon to the left of them...

One of the unfortunate things surrounding the game is that the show's producers have declared it "non-canon" that is not an official part of the Lost story. This I think is a big downer as aside from a confusing sense of time and a few easily fixed contradictions the game could have had it's place in the Lost story, but the producers have opted for no - leaving you with a slightly deflated feeling, which manages to take something away even from the mindblowing ending. If they'd said it's official I'd have been desperate for more, but as is...well I'm just a bit confused.

Worth playing?

Despite that factor the game is fun to play - though if you just like to kill stuff this might not be for you! The puzzles are hard enough to be challenging without being impossible either. The story, with it's dual element is intriguing and just being able to inhabit key island locations is a lot of fun. So if you're a Lost fan...well you've probably bought it already haven't you?!

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