Review: Lost in Blue (Nintendo DS)




Genre: Role-Playing Adventure
Platform: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (Mild Violence)
Developer:
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 9/27/05
Official Website: http://www.konami.com/gs/officialsites/lostinblue/

Being the RPG aficionado that I like to think of myself as, I try my best to keep up with every RPG release coming up for every game system. I try to play them all in some fashion or another, but at the very least, I try to keep them in my patented List O’ Games (TM). One game that was put into that list and was all but forgotten was Lost in Blue.

Every so often, I would go to EBGames.com and check out the RPG section for every system, and everytime I’d see Lost in Blue, I’d remember about it and say “hey, that sounds cool” and pretty much forget about it. What I’m trying to get at here is that this game basically came out of nowhere. There was no big hoopla that the game was being developed, I saw absolutely zero advertising for it, and there was no big to do when it was released. It’s as if the game didn’t exist and then suddently, POOF!, it was there.

This can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. Having a release like that makes you question whether or not the company has any faith in the game they are releasing. But in the gaming world of sequels and remakes, Konami could have been playing it safe by not devoting a bunch of advertising dollars to the game, and letting it come out and doing it’s thing on its own merits. It worked for Namco with Katamari Damacy. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

So here I am, going to review a game I know little about and see whether it could turn into one of those original games that people love for ages. Or if it will turn into just another game that gets forgotten, just like how I kept forgetting about it before release.


Story

You are Keith. You are on a boat, and somehow, get washed overboard. You end up on an island, all alone. Even though you are young, you have your wits about you and realize you have to be smart if you want to stay alive. You quickly find a few sources of food (though most must be cooked), and then a cave and then you start a fire. All of this is really no problem for someone who never misses an episode of Survivor!

So you’re good to go. You dry off, and go to bed for the night. The next day, you decide to go off looking for anymore survivors, and surprise! You run into Skye! It’s a cute girl to boot. You help her look for her glasses, but OOPS, you step on them and break them (big surprise there), and it’s your job to lead her by the hand back to the cave, where she becomes your cooking slave. Then you try to survive. That’s it!

First off, the story is pretty light. It kind of throws you to the wolves without any sort of motivation other than to “stay alive”. I find it very hard to believe that a young man, all alone, who just washes up on the shore after almost drowning, will be able to take care of himself (not to mention another person) like this. And how can he trust a woman who can’t see enough to walk on her own, someone who is effectively blind without her glasses, to use a knife and cook stuff? The whole premise is really implausible and just leaves a lot to be desired.
Rating: 3.0

Graphics
While the graphics are pretty decent, they simply aren’t near what the DS is capable of putting out. The sprite graphics are pretty crisp and clean, but you don’t see much of them, other than in the conversations.


The polygonal graphics, which is the vast majority of the graphics you’ll see, are just not that great. They do their job, sure, but they don’t really go above and beyond the call of duty, if you know what I mean. They resemble the quality of 3D graphics that you’d see a lot the Playstaystion 1, except the quality is closer to the launch of the PS1 rather than later in its life cycle. I know the NDS wasn’t meant to be a super graphical powerhouse, but I know it is capable of looking much better than this.

I’ll put it this way. The graphics in this game, as a whole, remind me a lot of another game that plays similar to this. The Sims titles for the GBA have a similar feel to this game as far as control is concerned. Granted, they’re different games, but graphically, I feel they are similar. The problem is that The Sims for the GBA was a good looking game. The NDS is supposed to look better, but it doesn’t. Overall, I think they could have done a lot better in this aspect, but maybe I’m just expecting too much.
Rating: 5.0

Sound
The sound really didn’t leave much an impression on me. After closing my DS and typing this, I have a hard time trying to remember what sounds there were.

There are many little incidental sounds that are in every game, such as menu sounds and ambient sounds such as waves and birds (which are actually pretty good and do help you believe you are on an island). But there is very little music, and what music there IS isn’t memorable at all. It just doesn’t stick with you. I can understand the lack of music, because that does help push home the fact that you’re all alone on this island. It does feel desolate. But when the music plays, and then stops, you don’t even remember it.

There is also a small amount of voice acting. Whenever your characters wake up in the morning, they say “Morning” to each other. And sometimes when you tell Skye to do something, she’ll say “OK”. Just little things like that, all one or two word voices. The quality is decent enough, but it’s really not what I’d consider “voice acting” because anybody could say a single word and it’d sound basically the same. Still, it’s a nice little touch.

And before anybody thinks I’m being overly harsh here, I have to tell you how I score sound in a game. Basically, the sound in a game augments the action. Sometimes it’s very important, and sometimes it simply isn’t. Lost in Blue doesn’t focus on sound that much, just like it doesn’t focus on the graphics much either. It’s all about gameplay. And that being said, since I am able to turn off the sound entirely and not lose anything, I don’t feel like the sound is all that deserving of a good score.
Rating: 5.0

Gameplay and Control

As I said in the previous section, this is really the focus of this game. It’s a very unique type of adventure game that reminds me a lot of a weird cross between Harvest Moon and ICO. I’ll try to explain it better.

Since you are on a deserted island, your priority is survival. You are given 4 different meters to keep up: Fatigue, Hunger, Thirst, and Overall Health (which is derived from the other 3). They’re pretty self explanatory. You need to eat, drink and rest to keep your health going. Drinking is easy because there is a stream you can drink at. Resting is also easy, though when you rest you get hungry and thirsty. But hunger is the hardest to deal with because you don’t start out with an unlimited supply of food. Another problem is that Skye must eat, drink and rest as well. Resting is no issue. Drinking is however.

This is where comparisons to ICO come in. See, when you meet Skye, you are a putz and step on her glasses, so she is, for all intents and purposes, blind. You have to hold her hand and take her where you want her to go. Fortunately, on a day to day basis, you don’t do this much. But everytime she is thirsty, you have to take her to the river to drink. On the plus side, she can cook food! I guess I should explain how most of the rest of the game works.

Since Skye is all but useless outside of your cave, it’s your job to forage for stuff. And you can do this in all sorts of different places. You can go to the beach and dig up clams and seaweed, you can shake trees to get coconuts, or you can grab some mushrooms from under a cliff. Normally this would be a simple point and click affair, but thanks to the DS Touch Screen, it works a little differently in Lost in Blue.

While many items can be picked up like normal from the ground, like the mushrooms and twigs, other items use the touch screen. For clams, you hit A to examine the ground wherever there is a lump, and you use the stylus to wipe away the sand, and to pick up the clam. To dig up a carrot, you use the stylus to dig away the dirt surrounding it and to grab it. And to shake out a coconut, you use the stylus like it’s your hand, and shake the tree back and forth. But none of these compares to the neat way you make a fire.

First you have to find 2 twigs and tree bark. You can then combine the bark and a twig to make a fire maker. Then to make the fire, you alternate hitting L and R (like your hands rubbing the twig on the pine bark) and then when it sparks, you blow into the DS mic to blow the fire hotter. It’s really neat. Konami did a great job of using the touch screen to the fullest in this game. Unlike in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, where items on the touch screen felt tacked on, this game makes you think the touch screen is a necessity.

Overall, the game ends up being a weird sort of genre-bending title you don’t see all that often. While you can point at similarities to other games, nothing compares to the gameplay and control scheme. While the touch screen isn’t as well used as Trauma Center, it is still used very well. And overall, the game is fun specifically because the gameplay is unique.
Rating: 7.0

Replayability
I don’t think there is any. Regardless of a new game or not, everything is basically the same. You’ll know where everything is, so it won’t be so much work, but by the same token, there won’t be much reason to play again. The only sort of collectable item in the game is your scrapbook, but it’s nothing special to fill that up. It’s just items you pick up, and tools and furniture you make. Nothing really big.
Rating: 2.0


Balance
I wouldn’t necessarily call this “balance”. Things tend to be more of a pain in the ass than anything. Since you have to keep Skye alive as well, you have to tell her when to eat sometimes, and when to drink, and so on. Unfortunately, there are occasions when you will be away from the cave for long periods of time, at which point Skye has to fend for herself. If she doesn’t, you have to run yourself back to the cave to keep her alive. It’s not difficult, but just frustrating.
Rating: 4.0

Originality
From pretty much the top down, the game is pretty unique. It has a lot of RPG-like qualities, but on the other hand, it shares qualities with adventure titles as well. Despite the qualities that it shares with other games and despite any comparisons you can make, this game is really quite different from any other game I can think of. From the whole premise of being stranded on a deserted island and having to forage for your food and firewood, and having Skye cook your meals, to the new and cool uses of the touch screen, the game is really unique. Konami put a good amount of thought into how the game was played, and it shows.
Rating: 8.0

Addictiveness
For a game to draw you in, no matter how good it is at any one aspect, it has to have something that is really enjoyable, something that you can point your finger at and say “hey, I like that”. Unfortunately, this game doesn’t have that. This game is the type that’s easy to put down, not that it’s BAD, it’s just that it doesn’t have anything to keep me entertained. The further I went into the game, it stayed pretty much the same. I’d find myself saying, “I’ll stop now and pick it up later” for no particular reason. I don’t hate the game at all, it’s just that it never drew me in like a game should.
Rating: 4.0


Appeal Factor
The problem with unique titles that are hard to put a label on is that you don’t really know who to suggest the game to. You could say “if you liked Harvest Moon, you MIGHT like this, but maybe not”. It’s really hard to say. I honestly don’t know exactly what type of person this game would appeal to. Konami didn’t know either. What appeal does it have? I could appeal to a weird subset of RPG fans that likes the weird repetitiveness of Harvest Moon, sure, but this ISN’T Harvest Moon. It lacks all the charm that is present in the farming simulators. And while it somewhat kinda resembles old school adventure titles, it doesn’t really. So I can’t even guess who this game appeals to, and just say it doesn’t appeal to that many people.
Rating: 3.0

Miscellaneous
Playing a game like this frustrates me. There is so much potential to be had, but for whatever reason, it was just never realized. Despite the low scores it garnered, it was a decently fun game. But Konami didn’t have enough faith in the premise, and it has the overall quality of a bargain bin game. While there’s no way this game could have been remotely close to the popularity of Katamari Damacy, it could have been so much better. But alas, it was never meant to be.
Rating: 4.0

Ratings Summary

Story: 3.0
Graphics: 5.0
Sound: 5.0
Gameplay and Control: 7.0
Replayability: 2.0
Balance: 4.0
Originality: 8.0
Addictiveness: 4.0
Appeal Factor: 3.0
Miscellaneous: 4.0

Average: 4.5

Short Attention Span Summary
This game is not an awful game, but it’s not a good game either. It had so much potential that was just squandered. It is unique and neat, but ugly and boring at the same time. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying this, but if you’re an RPG fan, and have a Gamefly membership, then I’d put it on your list. At the bottom. Someday you may play it, and who knows, you may like it.