In its six season run, the TV show LOST provided its millions of fans worldwide with hours of entertainment, as they attempted to unravel the mystery that surrounded the show. Naturally, this created a perfect template for adaptation, as the most avid viewers would buy just about any tie-in product if it claimed to somehow build upon, or provide insight into the world of LOST. One of the more involved LOST adaptations was the 2008 videogame “LOST: Via Domus”. Via Domus tells the tale of Elliot Maslow, one of the many passengers seen in the background of the show, and the story runs concurrent to events on the show. When the game came out, LOST fans were excited to play through the adventures of this new character in hopes that they might better understand the intricacies of the show. Unfortunately, The game’s story is convoluted and doesn’t fit into the overall scheme of the show, the game play is poor at best, almost every voice-over is done by awful sound-a-likes, and much of the classic Lost imagery is done incorrectly. Ultimately though, Via Domus fails as an adaptation of the popular show due to its inability to connect with users, or expand the LOST universe in any meaningful way.
The inclusion of Elliot Maslow as the main character and the developer’s inability to forge a unique and interesting story arc for him crippled the game from the very start. The LOST universe is known not only for its winding mystery filled narrative, but also for its rich, believable, likeable characters. Unfortunately Elliot has about as much charisma as an extra fumbling around in the background. The game opens with the classic imagery of the “Jack opens his eyes in the jungle shot.” This was a poor choice, as this moment is so closely tied to Jack’s character, especially given the connotation that LOST fans associate with this shot, due to the series finale. The association is clear and unavoidable, and immediately undermines the show. Elliot needed to have his own unique introduction. Instead, the developers of the game decided to follow the pilot episode of LOST verbatim, with Elliot continuing through the jungle towards the crash site just as Jack did. As Elliot plods slowly along through the jungle it becomes increasingly clear that the developers forgot at some point that this was supposed to be a game, It seems that a better way to do the opening of this game, would have been an exciting chaotic crash scene, perhaps with Elliot even waking up in the water, the looming remains of 815 in the distance. It would have been exciting. The player would be running around helping people, dodging shrapnel. But, no, the game instead has you trek through the jungle for what seems like a very long time for no reason.
The iconic Flashback scenes from the show are handled very poorly in the game, and fail to connect with players on any level. After the aforementioned trekking scene, Elliot is faced with a flashback sequence. This moment is baffling, as it impossible to understand why would there be a flashback before he even gets to the crash site. It is impossible to imagine the show doing something like this, because it is simply bad story telling. If on the show Jack had had a flashback scene while running through the jungle towards the crash, the viewer would be confused. The flow would be interrupted; any momentum built up before then, completely dashed. The same goes for the game. The flashback sequences require the player to take a picture of an object that Elliot is trying to remember in the present. The convenient reason for this is because Elliot has amnesia. This is a terrible plot device leads to some very annoying dialogue, repeated continuously as the player attempts to snap the picture in the flashback, “that’s not right.” “I can’t remember anything!” are repeated over and over. The actual picture taking does at least sort of work, its just incredibly boring, and not any fun at all. Just because it’s a flashback doesn’t mean it has to be a boring room with nothing happening, many of the character flashbacks in the show had plenty of action, like Sayid, or Kate’s respective stories. During this whole game there is a weirdo guy in a suit after you, so why not have some awesome chase scenes in the flashbacks where you shoot and drive cars? Instead the player is treated to the awfulness that is photographing Locke in a wheelchair from a small side room. If you happen to be playing through this particular section, the key is to make Locke out of focus in the background of the picture. Yes, it makes no sense.
Once you finally do make it to the crash site scene, everything about it is inconsistent with the show. There is of course the plane, and a few pieces of rubble, and then Jack, Hurley, and Michael as he continuously screams, “walttttt!!!” But that’s it. Nothing more than just a few characters standing motionless and emotionless. This is unacceptable, this is not a PS2 game, I expect there to be many people running around, chaos everywhere, Gary Troup getting sucked into the turbine. The best that the developer came up with is a that there is a lot of shouting in the background, that sounds like it was ripped from the opening scene of Medal of Honor: Frontline, but still no other people. Not even Shannon is there, neither is Boone, who were both a fantastic part of the opening scene in the show. In fact, neither of them is in the game at all, neither is Walt. Jin is only seen once, and every time you talk to sun she just tells you to go away. At any rate, this whole scene is so inconsistent from the show because there were 324 passengers on flight 815, and they only decided to include 3, Seems pretty lazy.
The game play throughout the titles entirety is mediocre at best, with some parts just falling short of unplayable. During the crash scene the player is introduced to the games main game play element, the fuse box puzzles. On the beach Jack tells the player something about the fuse boxes, and how you must complete a puzzle involving them, or something will blow up. Any momentum the game has gained after the horrible flashback and trekking scene is quickly destroyed by this “puzzle”. At first, this puzzle makes absolutely no sense, and there are no instructions. You spend minute after tedious minute turning dials and changing things while a loop of WALT WALT WALT WALT plays in the background. Eventually through trial and error the player will figure out what to do if they stick with it long enough. After this the game play changes up and the games trading system is introduced. Trade seems to exist though for only one reason: to give all the various fruit you’ve picked up in the jungle to the castaways in exchange for a torch. You need this torch to pass through the caves, which, unless you have a light source, are pitch black. This part of the game gets pretty scary, as the torch has a life bar which slowly depletes and after its gone, you’re swallowed up by the darkness. This was a cool idea, especially for an adventure game with little to no combat. However, the caves are incredibly nauseating and confusing, and very easy to get turned around in. There are only two of these cave segments, but the second cave segment was just as confusing as the first. Whenever bats fly at you, or you put out your torch for even a second, the darkness consumes you, and you get turned around almost immediately. This – getting turned around and confused- part of the game goes for the jungle segments as well. During most of these, there are tiny little flags to follow around, and the smoke monster is chasing the player around the area. This is not fun either. Anytime you hear the smoke approach you must hop into the banyan trees, and hide from it until it goes away. Usually it takes the smoke several minutes to leave, as it circles around the trees, and makes its usual scary noises. No one plays games to sit around and wait for the enemies to leave. This is why the game takes as long as it does to finish, because you are either aimlessly walking around the caves trying to desperately find the exit, or waiting in the trees. Not fun. To add to this, whenever you leave the banyan trees, you are so incredibly turned around and facing the wrong direction that chances are you will spend the precious smoke-monster free time trying to find the next flag. By the time you do, it will be back, and you’ll have to go hide again. On this same note, why were there little flags around the jungle?! There are no flags in the jungle on the show. They missed a lot of great opportunities with these segments. For instance, why not include Rousseau’s traps? Or even the polar bears? The absolute worst game play is in the section where the Elliot is carrying a stick of dynamite through the smoke monsters lair and if you run, you blow up. SO he has to WALK through the area.
The voice acting, sound design and character interactions in the game are simply atrocious. There are several chances to just walk around the beach and talk to the castaways, which should be fun, but ends up just kind of being boring. They’re all just kind of lounging around, which can be seen occasionally on the show, but rarely. Besides which, a game should be even more about the adventure, and less about the sunbathing segments than the show. During these parts Charlie’s guitar playing is especially bothersome. Every time you get near Charlie while he’s playing guitar, he just strums open notes, and the most heinous chords you’ve ever heard. It just seems odd that the developer wouldn’t bother recording a few simple chords instead. Also during this scene, the player can buy a gun from Charlie. This is inconsistent from the show as Sawyer was the one who controlled the guns on the island, not Charlie. If you do buy the gun from him then your probably thinking that there was going to be some awesome shootouts later in the game. Nope. You only have to shoot two people in the whole game. Two bullets. Which is why it makes no sense to buy extra ammo, or even have it be an option. The most nonsensical and confusing character in the game that is incredibly badly voiced is Locke. He sounds like a weird prospector. He also calls you “boy” throughout the entire game. When in the show does Locke ever call anyone boy? There is one part where the audio from Locke’s dialogue gets stuck on a loop and he says repeatedly, “hey boy, over here! Over here! In the banyan trees!” Compare this with the emotion felt by Locke’s character in the show and there is honestly no comparrison. The game lacks depth, and emotion.
There are many instances of inconsistencies with the show. For instance, the fuse boxes in the hatch were clearly labeled with Oceanic airlines, which makes no sense because Oceanic Airlines has nothing to do with the Dharma initiative. Also in the hatch the map on the blast door looked wrong, and not as detailed as the show. In addition to this, many of the dharma symbols were misplaced, and when the developer didn’t know what to put they went ahead and just stuck the swan station symbol there. The biggest inconsistency in the game is the moment in which Locke helps Elliot leave the island. This makes no sense because Locke sabotaged so many other attempts at doing so, beginning in season 3 when he blew up Jack’s submarine. The rest of the ending makes no sense either because it leaves the player with a cliffhanger. Now this is fine, because Lost is known for its famous cliffhangers, but this cliffhanger needed to fit into the overall scheme of the show, and unfortunately it did not.
In short, this game is a disgrace to LOST. It didn’t really further the story in any way, and instead just kind of mimicked it the whole way through. The story and the new characters were boring and cliché, and never once did I wish that Elliot had been on the show. He’s just a bad character. It’s sad really, because LOST has the potential to be a great video game. This game could even have featured Nicky and Paulo and I would have liked it more, because at least they were in the show. It’s hard for me as a viewer to be like, “oh yeah, I guess this could have happened also in the show”, except, we all know it didn’t. LOST is so carefully plotted and scripted, that throughout the game I found myself saying, wow, well, that didn’t happen. I had heard when this was coming out that this was written by the actual Lost writers. If that’s the case, it certainly wasn’t LOST executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. There is no way they would have written in the ending of this game that they did. It just doesn’t make any sense. It was a cool idea for an ending, but it has nothing to do with the show, and seems like a vague attempt to copy the, wow I can’t believe that twist factor that the show so brilliantly captures. In the end this game is just a disappointing side note in an otherwise untarnished legacy for LOST.
Terry, Paul, and Tara Bennett. Lost Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2010. Print.
Goldstein, Hilary. “Lost: Via Domus – Review at IGN.” IGN.com. 28 Feb. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://ps3.ign.com/articles/855/855831p1.html>.
Klepek, Patrick. “Do TV-to-Game Stories Have To Suck?” MTV Multiplayer. 3 Apr. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2008/03/04/do-tv-to-game-stories-have-to-suck-lost-via-domus-vs-sopranos-vs-24-vs-others/>.
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