Lost: Via Domus

Lost Logo

Everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to play Lost: Via Domus. My friends balked at the notion, my co-workers snickered. Even the clerk at Blockbuster, certainly a man of exquisite gaming taste with his unkempt goatee and vaguely hung over stare, wondered out loud if the game would be worth the outrageous rental price I was about to pay. I just smiled and placed a twenty on the counter, confident that I knew what I was buying into.

Yes, I thought, this game is going to suck. But I'm going to play it anyway.

Lost: Via Domus does indeed suck. With its creepy wax mannequin models, bland voiceover work, excruciating gameplay design and complete disregard for anything that made the source material appealing, the game practically has a black hole in its dark center, eager to pull you into its event horizon of frustration, ineptitude and cheap gimmicks. I'm hard pressed to find a license tie-in that is as terrible as this. And yet, I'm still playing. And I'm going to finish it.

Via Domus places you into the hit television show as a previously unseen castaway with a convenient case of amnesia. Your goal is to figure out who you are and what your role on the island is meant to be, a task you accomplish by solving lame puzzles, stumbling blindly through pitch-black caves, bartering with fruit and having insightful conversations with the show's cast of characters -- rendered as frightening, lifeless husks and voice acted to match mostly by stand-ins.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/Screenshot_01_large.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/Screenshot_02_large.thumbnail.jpg)

Yes, this is what you'll be looking at most of the time.

Just like the show, the game's seven levels are split into episodes. Each episode will give you a task to complete by talking to the other, more famous castaways and eventually wandering off into the jungle. In one level, your character is supposed to venture out into the jungle -- always a great idea on the show -- to look for his lost camera. Jack, the show's protagonist and de facto leader of the castaways, refuses to let you use the _one_ path that leads off the beach. The quest tracker tells you to find a distraction. The solution? Tell Jack that Claire, the pregnant survivor, has fainted. That tremendous hurdle cleared, it's time to wander the jungle for twenty minutes, following conveniently placed landmarks that are supposed to lead you to a cave.

Via Domus is in love with making you navigate caves. Nothing is as rewarding as fumbling your way through a maze by dim torchlight, right? Each torch only lasts a set amount of time, shortened if you run into a flock of bats or one of each cave's inexplicable waterfalls. When you're out of torches it's down to just a lighter that lasts a few seconds before burning you and going out. Hug the walls enough to stumble toward the outside and you'll be greeted with yet more jungle to wander through, maybe this time being slowly chased by the show's Black Smoke Monster. Lost never creates any tension in moments like these, just boring obstacles to overcome.

Just like in the show, your character will have a flashback for each level. These flashbacks are meant to slowly unravel your backstory by showing you a half-remembered snippet of action and having you take a picture at just the right moment. This "photojournalism" game mechanic has been all the rage since Dead Rising, but here it's purely a gimmicky storytelling device. If you don't get the right picture, the scene just starts over. Your reward for finally snapping the perfect photo is a poorly acted scene that gives you the smallest bit of information about what's happened to your character. Again, just like the show. There are even "Previously on Lost" cutscenes at the beginning of each level, summing up what you just finished doing mere moments ago. After sitting through a couple of those I wanted to toss the disc across the room. I should have. But even after this game fails me over and over, I'm still playing.

As a television show, Lost broke new ground by tweaking old formulas. The overall mystery of the island taps into the same vein that had me addicted to The X-Files back in the 90's, while the character interaction and drama it provides scratches the itch Buffy and Angel no longer reach. And don't forget the appeal of a desert island setting, an aesthetic that made Gilligan's Island such a television juggernaut. I watch Lost because I desperately want to unravel the secrets of the island. And the castaways are hot.

That same desire to figure out what the hell is going on is sadly what will make me finish Lost: Via Domus. It's not a hard game by any means, just a boring, poorly made one. The game is short, probably ten hours at most, so I don't have much farther to go, and I'm convinced that if I make it to the end, I'll have some insight on the complexities of the show, a better understanding of the island's secrets. I'll probably just end up with 1000 gamerpoints and the feeling that I'm being jerked around, but that's at least 1000 gamerpoints more than I got out of Season 2.

My point is, I'm the kind of fan who reads the tie-in novels, scourers the fake websites and searches for every tiny bit of information on the product I'm being sold. That's the market for Lost: Via Domus -- the sucker. If you're not one of us, you're better off staying far, far away from this game. There's nothing here for you if you're not already one of the converted.

Comments

Demi, between this, Jenga on the Wii, and some other crappy game you talked about on the podcast that I can't remember at the moment, I'm starting to think of you as the "wacky intern" that will do all the crazy stuff for the show. Just remember, it starts with playing bad video games. Before you know it you'll be asking bums if they'll fight each other for 5 bucks and a bottle of Ripple as a gag. Don't let it get to that, man.

Yeah, we give him all these games on a dare. "Hey Demi, I bet you can't finish THIS one!"

Before you know it you'll be asking bums if they'll fight each other for 5 bucks and a bottle of Ripple as a gag. Don't let it get to that, man.

I dunno, sounds like good show material to me.

Umm, what does via domus mean?

Is it an anagram for one of these?
AD IS OVUM (Yeah baby, sex sells!)
AVOID SUM (Aha, a clue. I avoid calculating my game purchase sums whenever possible)
SAD I OVUM (this one does make me frown sadly when i say it. If I were an ovum, I'd hope I was happy.)
MA VOID US (More America hate damnit! or Mom! I'm sorry, don't give up on me!!!!!)
AM VOID US (American is NOT Dead.... yet!)
AS I'D OVUM (this one sounds more exciting!)

This game is not finding it's way home to my house, I can tell you that. Some things are better left lost, if you know what I mean. I'm Locke-ing my doors if you catch my drift. There will be no flight...ok, ok, I'll stop! Geez.

I just read the synopsis on the Lostpedia. Sounds kind of dull, but the ending sounds like it ties in with the mythos and, oddly enough, last week's episode.

Elysium wrote:
Before you know it you'll be asking bums if they'll fight each other for 5 bucks and a bottle of Ripple as a gag. Don't let it get to that, man.

I dunno, sounds like good show material to me.

Agreed!

I was trying to nail down exactly why this game is so mediocre. I'm not going to say bad, by the way. For me, it comes down to two things:
1. Why on earth is there a barter system? This game is confused about what it wants to do. Is it a puzzle game? Is it an adventure game? An RPG?

2. The controls simply suck. Your character drives like a Segway scooter. You have to press an additional button to run. Why, in this time of analog controls, must we hit a seperate button to run? Because they want you to walk. They want you to walk because there are sequences where running is important. They don't want you to run all the time, just during those sequences. Why even have those segments? Ugh...

The game is relatively pretty, the puzzles are only puzzles in the barest sense, and yet I still am going to finish it. Luckily, it appears as though you can finish the whole thing in about 4 hours.

I guess someone had to be brave enough and try it ....

Sparhawk wrote:

I guess someone had to be masochistic enough and try it .... ;)

Fixed.

Demi wrote:

I'm hard pressed to find a license tie-in that is as terrible as this.

Jumper?

A game so bad, the two developers who worked on it don't even acknowledge it on their web sites.

Demiurge wrote:

... bartering with fruit ...

What does the fruit have that you need so badly?

Irongut wrote:

Umm, what does via domus mean?

It's supposed to mean The Way Home, but the correct latin would be Via Domum. I would have mentioned that in the piece, but I leave the linguistics studies to Sean. It's bad enough I'm playing the game, I'm sure as hell not going to study too.

Rat Boy wrote:
Sparhawk wrote:

I guess someone had to be masochistic enough and try it .... ;)

Fixed.

True.

McChuck wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

... bartering with fruit ...

What does the fruit have that you need so badly?

Yumminess.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

I rented it on my spanking new 360 last weekend and played through it for the same reason Demi did - plot.
It was a horrible, horrible game, with no interesting hooks whatsoever. I could go over why it was awful but I think Demi's overview was pretty bang on. The ending was fairly interesting and at times the atmosphere was pretty accurate, and the fact that the score was composed by the series composer lent to that whole authentic lost experience.
The horrible character models and excruciating voice acting, however, did not.
All in all, I'm not all that upset I played through the game, although I would strongly suggest that anyone else attempting this feat come armed, as I did, with a good amount of Vodka and your mixer of choice: not only will you have more fun, it's the only thing that will make the game's "puzzles" present any challenge.

buzzvang wrote:

Demi, between this, Jenga on the Wii, and some other crappy game you talked about on the podcast that I can't remember at the moment, I'm starting to think of you as the "wacky intern" that will do all the crazy stuff for the show.

Simply wacky? Or does he have another agenda entirely? Pretty good cover, if you ask me. He walks among us, but is he one of us?

Demiurge wrote:

It's supposed to mean The Way Home, but the correct latin would be Via Domum.

What else aren't you telling us? What's in the game? If I play this game, what will I see?

buzzvang wrote:

I'm starting to think of you as the "wacky intern" that will do all the crazy stuff for the show.

Or perhaps it's subconscious craving for a pain, like the time time I actually finished 'Fade to Black'. Nothing a little therapy and some pills can't cure.

This "photojournalism" game mechanic has been all the rage since Dead Rising...

But Beyond Good & Evil was such a great game!

Good article, thanks for keeping the site so entertaining that I'll lurk here even when I'm away and antisocial.

Jolly Bill wrote:
This "photojournalism" game mechanic has been all the rage since Dead Rising...

But Beyond Good & Evil was such a great game!

Good article, thanks for keeping the site so entertaining that I'll lurk here even when I'm away and antisocial.

So that's where you've been. Spoken like a true Tonberry.

I was waiting for the part where you told it was just for the Gamerscore. . . . . you whore

RonShatMyCarl wrote:

I was waiting for the part where you told it was just for the Gamerscore. . . . . you whore

Don't judge us!

*runs off crying*

I just want to add that I've been a huge fan of Lost since the beginning. I stayed true even through the first half of season 3. I've haunted the official websites, played the on-line games, downloaded the mobisodes, listened to the podcasts, read the books and tie-in novels and even bought the stupid puzzles to put together for the clues in invisible ink on the back.

In short, I'm exactly the target audience for this thing.

My feelings, after playing for about a half-hour is... my god does this thing suck!

As a fan it should be fun to virtually visit the locations from the show and interact with the familiar characters, but they seem to have gone out of their way to get the blandest voice actors they possibly could, and even the characters being voiced by their actual actors seem determined to act with the least amount of enthusiasm or effort possible.

As for the locations, well, my graphics card is only an 8400 GS but, come on! Even with the graphics settings set to minimum the thing still runs only slightly smoother than a slide show. And the lo-res textures look like crap. (The rest of my machine is more than adequate btw... 3 Gig, 2.4 Ghz Quad Core)

And the less that is said about the stupid photo gimmick, the better...

I suppose I'll force myself to finish the game but right now it's making me look back fondly on those early season 3 days with Nikki and Paulo. Way to screw up a franchise, Ubisoft.

Good thing this game isn't canon

This review makes me a sad panda. I knew this game was going to suck, but I allowed myself a glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately we don't get to rent Xbox games here.

Demiurge wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Umm, what does via domus mean?

It's supposed to mean The Way Home, but the correct latin would be Via Domum. I would have mentioned that in the piece, but I leave the linguistics studies to Sean. It's bad enough I'm playing the game, I'm sure as hell not going to study too.

Well, if I am to believe the Latin-English translator I popped it into, Via Domus means "road household."

Mordiceius wrote:

Good thing this game isn't canon

You could always should it out of one, though.

dhelor wrote:
Demiurge wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Umm, what does via domus mean?

It's supposed to mean The Way Home, but the correct latin would be Via Domum. I would have mentioned that in the piece, but I leave the linguistics studies to Sean. It's bad enough I'm playing the game, I'm sure as hell not going to study too.

Well, if I am to believe the Latin-English translator I popped it into, Via Domus means "road household."

Swayze?