I'd like to thank everyone who has checked out the site, and a special thanks to Brett, The Pearl, Mike Snoonian, Pyro, Jonathan, Keith, and everyone else who offered up their own take on a few episodes. And, goes without saying, thanks to Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, ABC, and the rest of the cast/crew of the show for providing me with something to enjoy immensely and obsess over (albeit in a limited way compared to some folks) for 6+ years. Namaste!
NOTE - This review originally ran at the time of the game's initial release on a now defunct website I used to write for called FreezeDriedMovies. It is being presented sans any new commentary or editing (so some stuff might be irrelevant by now - such as the complaints about the 60 dollar cost; the game is like 10 bucks now). Enjoy!
When Ubisoft announced back in 2005 or so that they would be making a game based on the beloved hit show Lost, there was a lot of speculation as to how it would “work”. Unlike say, The Simpsons, Lost has a deep, rich continuity, as well as a seemingly never-ending supply of questions without answers. How would a game tie into the show without breaking continuity? Would it have any relation at all? Would you play as Jack, or a whole new character? Will you get to interact with Scott (or is it Steve)? Etc.
Well now that the game is here, those questions have all been answered, though the result may not be as satisfying as fans have hoped. While some care has been taken to preserve the show’s mysteries while making a game with a satisfying conclusion, it seems that the attempt to make Lost: Via Domus appealing for both fans of the show and fans of adventure games in general has resulted in the game being nothing special in either category.
The nice thing about Lost (the show) is that there are about thirty fellow castaways whom no one ever talks to, though they will always attend funerals or hug a main character who is returning from some sort of adventure. So it’s easy for a game developer (or novelist) to design a story with one of these nameless folks as the central character, because there’s little risk of breaking the show’s “rules” as there would be with one of the main characters. In Via Domus, you play as one of those otherwise unknown castaways: Elliot, a photojournalist with a video game staple: amnesia. In one of the game’s best inventions, the “flashback” nature of the show is implemented via his job as a photographer. At a certain point during each “episode” (the game is broken up into seven of these levels), a memory will be triggered, usually by awkward dialogue by another castaway. Your character will then see a fragmented photo, and you must figure out what the image is and take a picture of it in your flashback. This will “unlock” your memory, at which point you will be presented with cutscenes that fill out your character’s backstory, which, in true Lost tradition, will reveal that your character is not exactly a saint, and has also encountered one or two of the castaways in the past. It’s a great invention; you get to actually DO things in the flashbacks without having to worry about “dying” in a memory.
Unfortunately, these scenes take up only a brief portion of each level. The rest of the time you will be running around the Island solving puzzles (of which there are sadly only two types), occasinally trying to help castaways with certain tasks, and dodging the damn smoke monster. And this is where the primary problem of the game is: if you strip away the “Lost”-centric locations (i.e. the various Dharma stations) and characters, you’re left with the least imaginative adventure game in recent memory. The puzzles are either a series of “IQ tests” found on computers (none of them are even remotely challenging, just “complete the sequence” type things like “A-C-E-G-?”), or fuse box puzzles that require you to place fuses to direct a certain amount of electricity from one end of the panel to the other. These are actually a bit challenging, though they get monotonous by the 5th or 6th time they come up (their implementation makes less and less sense as the game progresses as well; the first is used to stop the plane’s fuel from flowing, but the final one is used to simply open a door in a fully functioning building).
This leads us to another problem with the game – some of the things you have to do simply don’t make any sense at all. Early on, you find out that Locke has the battery for your laptop (why him and not Sawyer?). Locke says he’ll give it to you, but first you have to follow him into the jungle, then through a dark cave. What? Just fork it over, jerk! This even presents a plot hole – your otherwise pointless journey leads you to find a compass in the back of the cave. Later, uber-villain Ben Linus tells you that he left the compass there for you to find. You never visit the location again in the game, so how did he know Locke would make you run all the way out there?
On the plus side, this silly quest is one of the few times in the game you are actually required to interact with the characters you presumably bought the game for. Locke, Jack, Kate, and Juliet pop up with some frequency, but others, such as Sawyer, Charlie, and Hurley, never leave their spots on the beach, and you can feasibly play through the entire game without ever once speaking to Jin, Sun, or Claire (something even more of a downer when you consider that Sun and Claire are among the precious few who are voiced by the real actors). Michael is introduced screaming his trademark “WAAAAALT!”, but is only seen once again in the entire game. Walt, Shannon, and Boone aren’t in the game at all, and despite the surprising amount of season 3 characters and locations, none of the 2nd season’s “Tailies” appear either (unless you count a bizarre, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by Mr. Eko in one of your flashbacks). The beach is also devoid of any life; the only people there are the ones you need to talk to for the current mission. For a game based on a show that is renowned for its well-rounded characters, it’s a bit strange they would keep those characters absent for such a huge chunk of it.
Then again, the more interaction you have with the cast, the more likely it is that continuity would be broken. To its credit, the game does a good job of following the show’s story (over the first two seasons anyway) without rewriting history. For example, early on you see Jack, Kate, and Charlie running back from the cockpit, and then you decide to go look for yourself, rather than placing your character in the group from the start and contradicting what was established on the show. Other large events are sort of glossed over, however, particularly the raft, which is just mentioned off-hand.
Back to the “adventure” aspect of the game though – the action elements are pretty weak, not to mention repetitive. Runs through the jungle trying to escape the “smoke monster” are particularly annoying, because in order to hide you have to duck inside some trees – an action that changes your camera angle and causes you to lose your bearings. There are also a few “jump or slide” obstacle course type sequences and two treks through maze-like caves, nothing that will give even a casual gamer much challenge. You have a gun but you only need to fire THREE shots in the entire game (do NOT bother trading with Sawyer for extra ammo – the one clip the gun comes with is way more than enough), and outside of these moments the gun doesn’t work anyway. Again, if not for the fun of running around the Looking Glass and seeing that shark that terrorized Sawyer and Michael on the raft, there is almost zero reason to play this game over any of the superior adventure games already out there (the control and even game design reminds me a lot of the woefully underrated PS2 game Disaster Report – which is probably about 1/4 the cost and about 10x as fun). Your drive to keep playing will most likely be entirely based on seeing what show location will pop up next or if your favorite character will appear – something a non fan won’t benefit from anyway.
On a technical level the game more or less delivers. The controls are a bit awkward at first, but nothing damaging. The graphics are nice (particularly the lush jungle levels), and load times aren’t too much of an issue. The character likenesses are good for the most part, and little things like Locke’s scar or Jack’s sleeveless purple shirt are faithfully recreated. Desmond is one major exception, as his character looks almost nothing like him (stranger when you consider Henry Ian Cusick is one of the six actors to reprise their roles). Then again, he’s only in the game for 12 seconds, so maybe they just didn’t feel the need to spend as much time on him as Jack or Sayid.
The sound is where the game really reaches its potential; in addition to Michael Giacchino’s incredible score, the sound of the smoke monster is recreated perfectly, and the surround effects are not only well done but also quite helpful during a few of the “follow me” type missions. The replacement actors are OK as fine as acting goes, though none of them sound even remotely like their show counterparts (Locke sounds like a Native American, and Charlie just sounds like a cartoon), with the exception of whoever plays Jack, who nails Matthew Fox’s inflection and delivery.
In terms of value, the game is hardly worth the cost for anyone but the most die-hard Lost fans (which, as you may have guessed, I am). You certainly can’t accuse the game of dragging – this is possibly the shortest game I’ve ever played on a “next-gen” system. Using the Xbox “achievement points” as a guide, it is possible to complete the game and what few optional “side quests” there are (basically, taking pictures of things like Locke’s wheelchair) in under eight hours, and if you skip all that stuff and don’t die often you can probably be done in under six if the fuse puzzles don’t stump you. At a 60 dollar price tag, that’s a borderline ripoff, especially when you consider the game has no multiplayer options or any sort of replay value (no multiple endings or “free roam” type play). Assuming they are identical, the 30 dollar PC version is a far better option unless you’re an achievement point whore (getting all 1000 points takes minimal effort). Pity on those of you who only have the PS3 as an option – no points OR savings!
It’s a shame that first video game spinoff of one of television’s most exciting shows turned out to be such a relative bore. The novelty of interacting with the characters and locations, along with the “flashback” mini-game and story, are enough to give this one a pass for the faithful, but non-fans should just avoid it entirely – if I was trying to introduce someone to the world of Lost, I’d rather show them the weakest episode than have them play this game in order to show them what all the fuss is about.
FEBRUARY 5, 2011
12 minutes to explain a few of the show's plot holes in a non-amusing, annoying, largely sloppy (why would Chang explain polar bears and room 23 in the same video?) way? Fuck you, "New Man In Charge". What a total waste of time. Worse, it even has its OWN new, never-to-be-answered questions? What the hell do they want Walt for, exactly? Who is watching the island while both Ben and Hurley are dicking around in Santa Rosa? And what did they do with Desmond, which I seem to recall hearing was the point of the thing in the first place? Yeah, thanks for letting us know why Chang had a different name, though. Pointless fan-wank.
Where are we?
FEBRUARY 4, 2011
FOCUS: EVERYONE (THAT THEY COULD BRING BACK)
AIRED: MAY 23, 2010
Well, I was right: “The End” works a lot better on an emotional level once you know the difference between the two timelines. The “sideways” reunions are ALL touching, not just Juliet and Sawyer’s (the only one that really worked for me on the first viewing), and the island stuff is more exciting when you know what’s really at stake. However, this second view made me notice a lot of problems that weren’t as apparent the first time around.
For starters, good GOD is it in overdrive. Shit happens so fast, it feels like the writers had 3 minutes to plan for it, not 3 years. The plot moves so fast, they actually have Desmond going down in a well without any sort of plan (I love the idea that Locke and Jack are sending him down together. Lot of cooperation in their plan to kill each other), and all of the action in the finale revolves around taking out a thing and then putting the thing back in (was Lost just a giant dick joke?). I mean, really, what did they think would happen when he took the cork out? Why didn’t he just put it back in himself? It’s a really clunky concept to build the bulk of your series finale around. I hate ticking clocks and such, but Jesus, at least that would have been SOMETHING to grasp onto. Jack and Locke’s fight is also way too quick, and Ben returns to hero pretty much in between commercials (I don’t buy his sort-of explanation either – “I didn’t know you meant literally destroy the island”? What the fuck else would he mean?). I like that he saves Hurley, but it seems uncharacteristic from how he was behaving 10 minutes earlier. He also gets free from being pinned under a log without any explanation. I could go on and on, but the episode lacks finesse from start to finish, as if it was the scripts for 4-5 episodes condensed into two.
It’s got a lot of sloppy errors too. Whoever was in charge of the digital sailboat apparently figured Kate and Sawyer were better-than-Olympic swimmers – not only is it extremely far out when they are trying to get to it, but it seems even FURTHER out when they get off of it later! Why would they drop anchor so far out when they’re on an extremely tight time table? Frank says they got an hour; it seems like their boat ride alone would be an hour’s ride, not even counting the swim. Crash the fucking thing on the shore!
And nice job with the stunt doubles too:
The sideways stuff is also rushed, but that’s not as problematic, because we can assume that now that everyone is figuring shit out, they’re not restricted by real world logic. For example – Jack’s kid apparently just disappears. He’s with Claire at the party, but disappears as soon as she goes into labor. Juliet goes back to the hospital, and Jack goes to the party looking for him. So where is he? I guess he’s gone, because his never really explained plot purpose has been resolved, or something. But again, it’s not real, so it’s not really an issue.
And what should be a really powerful scene between Jack and Christian (love that Kate, of all people, finally points out how silly his name is, by the way) is hampered by Jack acting completely out of character in order for Christian to explain everything to the audience. Everyone else just “got” it, but Jack has to ask if he was real (huh?), and then Christian, apparently prepared, explains everything with the subtlety of a hammer. “You’re real. Everyone’s real. Everything that happened is real!” He might as well have looked into the camera. And then he goes on and on about how the most important thing he did was fuck around with these people on a magic island. Sort of a dick thing to say to a doctor, really.
Also, I had to laugh, because Rose and Bernard were invited along, despite the fact that they repeatedly expressed the fact that they didn’t want anything to do with these folks. Hell, at the beginning of the episode they more or less plan to throw Desmond to the wolves so they don’t have to get involved. Now they’re stuck with them forever, and you know they will figure out some way to “start shooting each other” even in Heaven. Yet Miles, Daniel, Charlotte, and Lapidus, all of whom had much stronger connections and bonding adventures with them than Rose and Bernard ever did, are left behind. Ditto Richard, who if memory serves was never even seen in the flash sideways world, unlike everyone else (even villains). I won’t even get into the absent characters who were MIA due to their actors refusal/inability to come back (little late to recast, which was my suggestion for the past but wouldn’t work for a single wordless scene in the finale). Thanks for carrying Sawyer across the island to save him, Eko, but you can’t come!
As a Kate/Evangeline Lilly fan, however, this is one of the greatest episodes of all time. I love when she just opens fire at Locke out of nowhere, and that she’s the one to save Jack instead of one of the guys (I figured Ben would come to the rescue). Also, holy SHIT her black dress – remind me to buy the costume designer for the show a drink or two if I ever run into him/her. I also hope that if I’m ever confused about my afterlife, someone who looks like her will be my guardian angel helping me get where I need to be, promising to wait for me and such (also, hey – EvANGELine – good foresight, casting folks).
It’s also a pretty funny episode. Jin’s amusement when Sawyer comes to talk to them kills me; he’s totally charmed by Sawyer’s cluelessness. I also love Terry O’Quinn’s performance when he wakes up and Jack starts doing his angry/stubborn Jack thing, he’s trying so hard not to laugh, like “Oh, Jack, I missed you, you easily irritated prick!” They also have some fun with the meta stuff; in addition to mocking Christian’s name, I love that Locke/MIB gets to join in the fun for once by mocking how Jack was the “obvious choice” to take Jacob’s place. Speaking of which – what’s up with Jack simplifying the ritual? Jacob had wine, a Latin blessing, etc – Jack just makes Hurley drink some filthy water out of a plastic bottle. I guess it’s his rules now?
I also never noticed how short Claire was. When she’s walking to the concert, not only is she dwarfed by Juliet, but even the 12 year old David has a good 6 inches on her. And while we’re on the subject of the concert – I was hoping the DVD would have a deleted scene of Charlie and his brother having one last talk, but nope. Liam’s role here is basically a background extra. More rushing!
But really, nearly every issue I had with the episode was expunged by seeing this again:
Hahahaha that is just so damn awesome. I also love his “LOOOOOOOOOCKE!!!” beforehand. The rain just makes it even more perfect. After getting such a savage beating by Sawyer at the end of last season, it’s a pretty good comeback for Jack’s image.
Well, anyway, that’s it. I didn’t hate the finale, and I’ve gotten over the lack of answers on certain aspects (Walt, the pregnancy stuff, even more recent things like Ilana’s history), but it wasn’t as epic a finale as the show deserved, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken two viewings to feel emotional about 90% of the emotionally-charged scenes. I mean, the Prison Break finale – THAT delivered. All of its characters were given a true coda (come on, not even ONE scene of the folks on the Ajira plane after they land? What does Richard do? Why don’t Kate and Sawyer get together? Etc), the death of its main character was truly sad, and the way his death brought everyone together was far more touching. It also had a bit of the rushed feel that this had, but they also had I think 7-8 episodes to plan for it – not 3 seasons.
As for Season 6 as a whole, like most of the seasons (all of them except the first, really), it worked better on a second, back to back viewing, but in a different way. Usually it’s because the cliffhanger/serialized nature of the show just lends itself to watching over 2-3 weeks instead of 6-9 months, but in this case it actually made SENSE this time around, allowing me to care about the island story knowing it was real, while having the information that only some of the characters were privy to on the sideways world. But part of the fun on Lost is the reveals and surprises, and obviously most of those (Locke is Smokey! They WERE brought to the island for a reason! Richard doesn’t age because he uh, didn’t want to!) I got the first time around, rendering that sort of stuff less exciting or intriguing. So I guess I APPRECIATED this season more a 2nd time around, but didn’t necessarily find it more entertaining (or less annoying, in the case of the Temple episodes). And I’m STILL unsure if it or 5 is the weakest season.
As for the SHOW as a whole, well, obviously I still love it. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t want an excuse to watch it all over again. Yeah I have lots of nitpicks and issues, but I can nitpick about Halloween (how’d he get the mask before he robbed the store?), my wife (girl can’t even make a cheese sandwich without turning the kitchen into a disaster area), or Bat Out Of Hell (um... actually I have no nitpicks with Bat Out Of Hell. It’s only 7 songs long instead of 700, I guess?), too. The point is, nothing is perfect. I know folks who decided that they hated the show from start to finish because of their disappointment with the finale, and that I find quite silly. It provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment over 6 years, influenced a few of my literary choices (“Third Policeman” – read it!), and unlike other shows I invested myself in, it never got AWFUL (X-Files, Heroes, etc).
Plus, I didn’t know who the hell to pick for my "freebie" prior to September 22, 2004 (my wife's is Ryan Gosling), because I had never seen Ms. Lilly in anything of significance before then. So thank you, Lost. For whatever you may have got wrong over six seasons, you got that much right.
FEBRUARY 3, 2011
There’s a “law” of sorts, particularly for television, that states that unless we see the body, a character isn’t dead. So when Smokey “kills” Richard in “What They Died For”, I knew it was BS, just like I was pretty sure Lapidus wasn’t dead (though things were a bit grimmer for him since we at least saw his body hit the floor). You can fool me with the timeline and other nonsense, but you can’t fool me into thinking someone is dead when they’re not, Lost!
Actually a lot of the island stuff is kind of dumb in this one. I really hate how Widmore goes out, simply being shot moments after arriving on the main island. Especially at the hands of Ben; while I understand the “poetry” of it (for lack of a better word), Ben’s random return to villainy didn’t sit well with me, and since I always enjoy the idea of enemies teaming up against bigger enemies, I was hoping for more of their uneasy alliance leading into the finale. Widmore was sort of a 2nd main villain on the show after Smokey – he should have been part of the finale. Points for Zoe's death though, not only is it a good shock moment, it's also hilarious that Locke points out how pointless she was. Good call, Smokey!
It also makes “Across The Sea” even more annoying, since Jacob explains all the key points anyway. Again, had thAT episode taken place at the beginning of the season, the refresher would be appreciated, but this aired a week later – we haven’t forgotten the basics. I like that Jack takes over, however, and Sawyer’s “God complex” line is hilarious – it’s the rare time I disagree with Kate (I would have laughed and shook his hand for that one, not told him to shut up). At the time, I was sort of like “Wait, this is already settled? What the hell is going to happen in the finale?”, so on a re-watch it’s actually a lot of fun – Jack’s NOT the guy after all.
The sideways stuff is a hoot though. Giacchino’s score is wonderfully frantic, particularly in the later scenes where Desmond is playing puppet master. Ana Lucia’s appearance was a nice surprise (why she wasn’t “ready”, I’m still unsure), as was Hurley’s ugly orange Camaro. I would have liked a little more with Desmond and Hurley planning things out, but I guess that would have been hard to do without giving away the big secret. One thing that’s sort of odd about the revelation is that no one seems to mind that (spoiler!) they’re dead – with the exception of Jack, they sort of take the news pretty easily.
And I love the Ben/Desmond scene. Even a second time around I thought he was going to run Locke over again, which is just hilarious. But I also like how he “wakes” Ben up, by beating the bejesus out of him one more time. I bet the makeup folks on Lost were glad it was over, knowing they’d never have to make Michael Emerson look beat up ever again. The stuff with Alex is also very sweet, and again ties into the idea of the flash sideways being a way for them to put their biggest personal demon at rest (which again is why the Sawyer and Sayid sideways stuff was largely horrible). Jack and Locke’s scene is a bit on the nose (nearly every line is a repeat of a line they have said before – Christ, why didn’t THAT wake them up?), but again, it’s always nice to see them talking as friends again. When you watch the first season, even when they disagree, there was always a mutual respect for one another, and I really missed that as the show progressed. One of the show’s biggest failings, I think, was killing Locke off without ever having one last real scene with Jack (though “The End” at least has a good line of dialogue to make up for it).
Well, that’s it! Tomorrow’s the big finale! I’m about to get 90 minutes of my day back!
Where are we?
FEBRUARY 2, 2011
FOCUS: JACOB, MAN IN BLACK
AIRED: MAY 11, 2010
There are two ways one could hate “Across The Sea”, and both are equally valid. You can hate it for being the antepenultimate episode of the series (not the season, THE ENTIRE SERIES) and spending the entire time with two cipher characters who, quite frankly, no one really cares about AS CHARACTERS (mainly because they're both dead by this point, for one thing). Or you can hate it for often being written with all the subtlety of a Friedberg and Seltzer movie, offering up god-awful dialogue like “One day, Jacob, you can make up your own game and everyone will have to follow your rules,” which is the equivalent of Obi-Wan muttering “You’ll be the death of me!” to Anakin in the Star Wars prequels.
I hate it more for its placement, for the record. As bad as the dialogue can get, it does answer a lot of questions and give certain things that happened in previous episodes a new, better meaning (such as Jacob and MIB’s first scene in the S5 finale). It’s not a GOOD episode, by any means, but I can see its purpose. But why did they have to place the episode here? All along they said that the show was about the characters, that the answers to the various mysteries weren’t important if the characters didn’t care about them. Well forgive me for assuming things about fictional characters, but I’m pretty sure Hurley and Sawyer don’t give a flying fuck about what game Jacob and MIB played with as children. I also doubt the “controversy” of who Jacob’s mother is weighs heavily on Jack’s mind. At least if all this shit was revealed at the beginning of the season, it wouldn’t have been AS annoying. By putting it here, we not only get two very rushed final episodes, in my opinion, but it also completely breaks up the rising tension from the previous 2-3 episodes.
Another benefit to putting it earlier involves the fact that they try to make the MIB into a tragic character here. He was introduced more or less as a villain, had done terrible things throughout the past season under the guise of John Locke, and basically given us no reason whatsoever to even like him, let alone sympathize with him. And NOW, with the final battle more or less already begun, they want us to reconsider his plight? If this was at the beginning of the season, that could have posed an interesting way to approach the season, as fans. Do you side with Locke/MIB, or Jack/Jacob? As we see here, all MIB wants to do is leave (when he was still human), and if we’re supposed to believe in that “all of the evil of the world will be spilled” stuff, they sure as hell don’t explain it or even hint at what that may look like in this. For all I know that’s just some shit Jacob made up to convince people to stay. So they blew a chance for interesting fan debate throughout the season by waiting until almost literally the last minute to hint that MIB might not be the real villain.
And, not for nothing, but the ONE thing they needed to explain was why the Man In Black couldn’t just kill Jacob (or vice versa), and they do so by... having the Mother say that they couldn’t kill each other. That’s basically it. Did she put a curse on them? Is it like some Terminator 2 type shit (“I cannot self-terminate”)? We see Jacob beat the piss out of the MIB twice, so it’s not like there’s some sort of protective force field or whatever – seems like Jacob could have very easily just picked him up and tossed him over a cliff. And if the idea was that even if he did that, MIB would survive (either by simply Wolverine-style healing or being “saved” by a 3rd party, a la the dynamite going out when Richard tried to kill himself), then they should have showed a scene like that for it to be more clear. Nope, Mother just says so. Great explanation, guys.
I also don’t care much for any “back-story” that requires its own back-story. Where did their birth mother come from, and where was she going? How did Mother arrive on the island? Or the “Others”, for that matter? Who decided she would be in charge of the Urine Cave and how did she come to understand what it did? Hell, where DID she get that stupid game? The whole episode is designed to provide answers, but it does so in a very inorganic and rather clunky way; reverse-engineered from what we already know (again, like Star Wars) and rather poorly so.
Well, whatever. It’s not like I’m the lone voice of dissent on this one. Way to make me hate the idea of spending a good chunk of the episode with the awesome Titus Welliver, Lindelof/Cuse (who provide a commentary on the episode but due to time constraints I’ll have to skip it – originally I planned to listen but alas, I’m too behind on other stuff).
Where are we?