I’ve been playing Lost in Blue 2 on the DS for a while now, and while I always love games about island survival, like MyTribe, Sims 2: Castaway, etc., there’s a lot of room for improvement in Lost in Blue.
Cool minigames make use of the the DS’s capabilities, but the hundredth time you have to light a fire, it stops being fun. The same can be said for cooking, fishing, catching animals, and every other repetitive action. I’m a big fan of Cooking Mama 2, but this is no Cooking Mama. Also, the actions you need to perform repeatedly are hidden in sub-menus or are only available after a chain of choices, instead of being accessible, one-click actions.
The story begins as two high-schoolers are washed up on a beach after a shipwreck. Players can choose Jack or Amy as their primary character, but they are responsible for the survival of both. I choose Amy, and before I complain any more, I should mention how much I enjoyed playing a sweet teenager protagonist, a girl with a cute haircut and school clothes (did I mention how not-pink they were?), neatly pretty without defaulting to videogame sexy.
Jack, Amy’s companion on the island, is not the brightest bulb in the box. You need to feed him, making him more like a rather dim pet than a boyfriend. (If you choose to play as Jack, Amy becomes similarly dull-witted.) Every time he gets hungry, you need to let go of his hand (one click), target Jack (varies), select Talk (one click), tell him you have something for him (one click), wait for him to ask what it is, tell him it’s something to eat (one click), wait for him to ask what he’s eating, and then select the item from your backpack to feed him (varies, but you select, choose ‘give’ and confirm), he says it’s delicious (one click to confirm). Early items, like raspberries and coconuts, fill his meter between 3 and 5 percent, out of a possible hundred percent, so even if he doesn’t perform any physical labor — like a million walks to the stream to quench his inexhaustible thirst — which makes the hunger meter empty faster, you’ll need to do this series of actions between 20 and 33 times in a day to get him full.
Also, items must be fed from Amy’s backpack to Jack. You cannot feed him items that he’s carrying, and he will literally die of starvation with a backpack full of lunchboxes and fruit. To exchange items between backpack, you need to let go of his hand (one click), target Jack (varies), select Talk (one click), tell him you have something for him (one click), wait for him to ask what it is, select give (one click), wait for him to ask what you’re giving him, and then exchange items between the backpacks. So. Not. Fun.
A lot of the game involves learning about the island, for better or for worse. Discovering new environments is inherently rewarding, and the combination of exotic jungle life and retro platformer right angles was charming. Sweet animations, which Amy looks down over a steep cliff or when she looks over her shoulder to make sure Jack has jumped across the stepping-stones safely, make exploring ever better, although, like everything else in the game, what’s fun the first time is annoying the twentieth time.
Much of the game is based on discovery, but unfortunately the rate of success is skewed so that I felt like I was always thwarted by doing things at the wrong time, in the wrong order. I could solve this by printing out a map, or recipes, or a fishing timetable, but that feels a lot like getting a walkthrough. I’ve used internet hint when I’ve gotten stuck (That would be every puzzle that requires me to distinguish between musical notes…), but I don’t like playing game that require a strategy guide hints to complete.
Certain events trigger cutscene stories, which advance the story but cause their own frustrations. At one point, the characters took themselves home and slept, waking up nearly dead of hunger and thirst. Another story had Jack disappearing, unfortunately with our food in his backpack. While Jack was away, Amy refused to go away from the cave-home to collect food or water because she was waiting for Jack. Another time, Amy wouldn’t go in the cave to cook… You get the picture. This is horribly flawed — a cutscene should not be able to kill me. I was unable to enjoy the stories because I was afraid they would go on too long and Jack and Amy would die of hunger and thirst while they talked about making ropes. (I also disliked the cutscenes because the story seems to be leading to a romance between the two characters, but I like to think that Amy has standards, even if Jack is literally the only guy around!)
I’m having trouble summing up because I can’t recommend that others buy it or even rent it because it’s so flawed in so many ways… but at the same time, although I do turn it off in frustration, I put the game down for later instead of selling it back. Even when I’m frustrated with tools that keep breaking and bored of running to the spring to slake our unquenchable thirst, I keep picking it back up to play a few more days trapped on an island with my dimwit boyfriend.I can’t explain it — I think I have a dysfunctional relationship with Lost in Blue 2.