Of all the current crop of hot TV shows, ABC's Lost and NBC's Heroes have the kind of worldwide following that should result in a successful video game. It just so happens that Ubisoft has snapped up both properties and last week I headed into central London to check out Ubisoft Montreal's effort to bring the mysterious Lost to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Unlike many movie licensed games, the Lost video game - which goes by the title Lost: Via Domus - does not mimic events from the series; instead Ubisoft and ABC have created an all-new storyline which runs parallel with events from the first three series. Players will assume the role of Elliot Maslow, one of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. Elliot is a photo journalist from Washington and following the traumatic crash awakens suffering from amnesia.
The game is presented as seven episodes - said to total around 10 hours gameplay - with each following the tried and tested formula of the show, even down to cliff-hanger endings and recaps at the beginning of each new episode. This Episodic nature to the game's structure also lends itself well to future downloadable content, something Ubisoft is keen to offer providing there's a strong enough audience for it.
Each episode is played out primarily through adventure sections, involving lots of interaction with the stars of the show who dish out tasks to complete and helpful advice should you get stuck. Your first encounter is with Kate whose bottle of water triggers the first of your flashbacks - each rebuilding your broken memory. In the flashback you're back on Oceanic Flight 815 and must take a picture of Kate at the moment which causes a memory to come flooding back - in this case when Kate takes a bottle of water from a stewardess revealing the handcuffs she's wearing. You have to be careful to ensure the picture is in focus and of the correct subject and then the memory will play out in full.
It's Elliot's amnesia which forms the crux of the story in Lost: Via Domus; each flashback sequence helping him rebuild his memory. What you end up with are sections of action adventure in which you'll have plenty of interaction with the show's stars mixed in with photographic flashback sections that push along Elliot's story. There's also a smattering of puzzles to be solved, an example being a fuel leak on the crashed plain which requires a number fuses of differing values to be fitted in the correct order.
In true Lost fashion the story will be slowly revealed over the course of the ten hours, with the game's success likely to rest on the player's need to discover why Elliot was on Flight 815 and why he is important to the Others. I won't go into this here, but early impressions point towards a suitably mysterious plot and, if the game's producer is to be believed, an ending which really delivers. Ubisoft's close collaboration with the producers and writers from the show should ensure fans won't be disappointed.
It's not the story that will get gamers snapping up copies of the game though, rather the game's ability to deliver a believable interactive Lost experience. Ubisoft Montreal has certainly made a commendable effort. The island deserves a special mention having been recreated with considerable beauty. The ensemble cast are also all very impressive looking. The biggest disappointment though is the lack of real voices from the show, meaning many of the stars are voiced by sound-alikes of varying quality. Kate, Jack, Locke and Sawyer are all present in the game, but they just don't feel right with their new voices. Characters with intact voices from the show include Tom, Desmond, Ben, Sun, Claire and the one-eyed member of the Others Mikhail.
Other areas of the game though should stand up to scrutiny from even the most hardened Lost fans. Ubisoft Montreal has had access to the show bible meaning all elements of the show's production - be it art and sound direction or the rules of flashbacks - abide by the same rules as the show. The game even features 60 minutes of original music composed by Michael Giacchino who fans will recognise as the man behind the show's memorable score. The smoke monster is even included, although whether we'll learn any more about it remains to be seen.
Lost: Via Domus is scheduled for release on February 28 and first impressions suggest a game fans of the series will lap up, although only further time with the finished game will reveal if there's enough there to warrant a purchase for gamers not already tangled up in the Lost web.