The Lost in Blue series has never been for everyone. Scrounging for measly tidbits of food on an empty tropical island sounds more like work than a game, and for many that’s exactly what it would be. We didn’t think it sounded fun either, and yet hours later we were greedily massing our horde of grilled white carp and mushroom salads and gasping in joy when an oil drum washed up on shore.
If you’ve played either of the previous games, you’ll be right at home: you play a character waking up stranded on a beach alone. You soon find another castaway, who will accompany you on your journey. Your partner is both a boon and a hindrance: they can carry items for you and perform tasks, but they also get tired, hungry, and thirsty just like you do. You may find yourself wanting to throttle them in their sleep so you can keep the precious food for yourself. Such is the emotional impact of these games - you will feel the desperation of island survival.
The core gameplay doesn’t have a whole lot new going on. The interface is nearly identical to Lost in Blue 2, with most of the food items and gathering techniques unchanged. At first you gather coconuts, then find a cave and start a fire (blowing into the mic is still fun). You’ll spear fish, make traps, and talk to a chimpanzee in its own goofy chimp language. Your sphere of influence grows as you improve your methods of meeting your most basic needs.
This time around you have four different characters to choose from at the start, and in a touch clearly influenced by the show Lost, each character has a series of flashbacks that occur over time, slowly revealing the clues to their past. For some reason the character art has changed to a much more cartoony Manga look, which is a departure from the slightly more proportional anime style of the previous games.
If you’ve never played Lost in Blue 1 or 2, diving into this one can be quite daunting. Luckily, a welcome change this time around is a more forgiving difficulty, meaning you won’t spend your first hour on the edge of death. The game makes some attempts at explaining the various minigames, and when it does bother to explain something, it’s all nice and clear. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of elements left completely up to you to stumble through. Often it’s obviously intentional and works as discovery gameplay - you fiddle around with something until it works, just like a castaway would. Other times, things don’t work and there’s no apparent reason why. At one point we observed that we could expand our cave’s storage area, and the popup text told us we could now ask our partner to perform the task. Yet when we talked to him, no such dialogue option appeared, and the task remained undone, forever a mystery.
There are also clunky interface issues that should have been fixed by the third time around. In order to talk to your partner you have to let go of their hand and then turn to face them. Dialogue trees, when ended, kick you back to the overhead view, so if you want to ask multiple questions, you have to keep going in and out of dialogue. Much of the game works this way - it’s peppered with unnecessary transitional screens or animations that slow things down.
As we said at the beginning, this type of game will only appeal to certain gamers. If you played a previous Lost in Blue and just couldn’t get enough, this will certainly satisfy your craving. If you weren’t too into the last one, this entry is basically more of the same (and even a near-remake in most respects) with a few extra features thrown in, so you won’t be finding some revolutionary new direction for the series. There are a couple of simple multiplayer challenges thrown in, and thanks to download play you won’t have to expect everyone to own a copy. If you’ve never played any of these games and the concept sounds intriguing, you may find quite a gem here. And finally, if the whole premise sounds about as entertaining as folding cardboard boxes, it’s unlikely you’ll have much fun with it. However, we expected as much and ended up engrossed while time slipped away and we lived out a humble existence on some faraway isle.
Mar 19, 2008