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Lost: Via Domus
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game is an offshoot of the TV show Lost. Like the show, there are moments of moderate violence and terror: characters are shot, blood is shown, and the player gets chased by a scary "smoke monster." Profanity is limited to what you might hear on primetime network television. The only part of the game even remotely sexual in nature is a woman walking on a beach in a bikini posing for a picture. Parents should also be aware that, while the game targets a casual gaming audience, there will be moments of frustrating difficulty resulting from unclear in-game instructions.
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What's it about?
Based on Lost, a popular TV show about a group of plane crash survivors inhabiting a mysterious and perhaps supernatural island, LOST: VIA DOMUS is an action/adventure game starring a heretofore unseen survivor who wakes up after the disaster with amnesia. Players control him from a third-person perspective as he speaks with other survivors, solves puzzles, explores the island, and goes into the past to relive his slowly returning memories. The game is a mixture of puzzles, exploration, role-playing, and short bursts of action that involve, for the most part, avoiding the attacks of various people and creatures. Players eventually get their hands on a gun, but it's very rarely used.
Is it any good?
The most interesting part of the game is how its story runs parallel to events that fans of the show have seen on television. For example, after exploring the jungle, players will often return to the survivor camp on the beach to find people talking about events that took place on the show but are not shown in the game, such as the first time the "Others" -- hostile island co-inhabitants -- attack the survivors' camp. Of course, the downside to this novel method of storytelling is that players who are unfamiliar with the show are unlikely to have any idea what the rest of the survivors are talking about.
However, while the narrative ought to engage people who enjoy the show, the actual game may not. The problems start with navigation. Finding your way through the jungle depends heavily on watching for signs and flags that show you the way. The problem is that these waypoints are so poorly distinguished from the rest of the foliage that you'll often walk right past them. Even when you aren't in the jungle there are times when you'll have difficulty figuring out where to go or what to do or how to do it, which could wind up making some players -- especially the casual gamers toward whom the game is geared -- start banging their heads in frustration. The climax is perhaps the best example of the game's obtuse objectives: It first tasks the player to make a choice without actually explaining what that choice is, then provides no clues on just how to enact your choice once you've made it. We had to experiment a dozen times before figuring out how to proceed -- which, as one might expect, rather extinguished the dramatic tension that had been building up until that point. Still, if you're a Lost fan, the story -- especially its bizarre but strangely comprehensible conclusion -- is worth checking out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of camaraderie in survival situations. If you were stranded on a deserted island, who would you like to have with you? Whom could you trust? Families can also discuss how well or poorly the game ties in with the TV show. Did the designers and writers do a good job of making the game's plot run parallel with the first two seasons of the show, as they intended? If someone who has never seen the Lost TV show were to play this game, would they understand what was going on?
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