Which brings us neatly to one of the reasons why the game doesn’t work – interaction. We were promised a lot of interaction with the characters, and to a certain extent we get it. Jack barks orders at you, Sayid gets threatening, you can trade with Sawyer or have Locke act as your guru and your guide. The problem is that it’s all very superficial. Either you’re just using the most appropriate question to get the answer that will take you to the next step of the plot, or you’re involved in a set of very simple queries, statements and responses that repeat and loop without any sense of real dialogue happening. The decision to avoid branching dialogue might have kept development time and expense down, but it’s cost the game a lot of heart and soul. It’s also disappointing that the other characters are so rarely – and even then so poorly – integrated into the game’s puzzles and action sequences. Lost is a show in which characters work together (or against each other) to achieve specific goals. Why, then, not the game? Was it just too difficult? Did it require too much imagination?
Imagination. I hate to say it, but imagination seems to have been lacking all round. Forget complex or interesting puzzles; for the most part we’re back to the stuff of getting hold of torches so that we can make it through a cave or finding specific items so we can make it through a door. I guess the puzzles are more realistic than the convoluted efforts found in other adventure games, but they’re also a little obvious and dull. To add a little difficulty, Ubisoft’s team has packed each chapter with one or more fusebox puzzles, where you’re trying out different combinations and arrangements of fuses in order to get working voltage values on a number of gauges. Think of a version of Bioshock where there’s less shooting mutants and less messing around with plasmids and an awful lot more hacking, and you might just get an idea of how entertaining – or not – this is.
It’s not that there aren’t action sequences packed in there too, but these are either incredibly simple or hideously frustrating. The former isn’t really a criticism when you think of this as a game for a casual audience, but the latter definitely is. When I’m already struggling to evade the notorious black smoke – hello, sudden death! – I don’t really need to be fighting confusing scenery (is that a path or not?) or abrupt changes of camera angle (which way am I looking now?) In fact, bizarre design decisions are a frequent issue. Why do torches burn down so quickly? Why do you die when they do? Why does taking a photograph from one angle trigger an event while taking the same object from another angle not? Wouldn’t it be nice to get some warning that using a computer or going near a piece of wreckage could cause your imminent demise?