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Harry Milonas
23 Jul, 2007

Lost in Blue 2 Review

DS Review | Swimming for it is not an option.
Remember when videogame ‘realism’ began its tenure as the Next Big Thing? When titles such as Shenmue promised expansive worlds, filled to brimming with all sorts of tasks, big and small, that aimed to mimic the ‘joys’ of real life? Where sets of menial and tedious mini-games were seen as a form of interactive entertainment? Where waiting for a bus in real time, lifting boxes over and over again, or being constrained by some arbitrary sense of passing time, was considered innovative design? Remember how much of a depressing reminder of your own meandering existence such ‘realism’ in videogames was? Unfortunately, Lost in Blue 2, much like an estranged former love interest, continues that unwelcome reminiscence.

With a first instalment that, in itself, left a lot lacking even as a launch title for the DS – not to mention the series’ spiritual predecessors in the form of Konami’s Survival Kids series – Lost in Blue 2 doesn’t stray too far from the expected. This time around, token male Jack and token female Amy are the young unlucky seafarers finding themselves strewn alone on a deserted island. You are given the choice of which one of the two will be the leader of the game’s proceedings, and unlike the first Lost in Blue, playing as either Amy or Jack comes with its own set of slight differences to the exposition, mainly in regards to the dialogue. Sadly, what doesn’t change, no matter who you pick, is the downright resentful AI of your partner; to the point where even the simplest action, such as walking from point A to point B, is made infinitely more cumbersome than it should be.

Legally Brunette.

Legally Brunette.
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While it’s hard enough satisfying your own hunger, thirst and fatigue, the fact that you also have to be constantly babysitting your partner through the same motions adds to the needlessly complex interactions in Lost in Blue 2. You’d assume that your partner, being in exactly the same situation as your own avatar, would be able to discern that, for example, when they are feeling tired, they should probably go to sleep. Far from it, as you have to keep trained eyes on both your and your partner’s categorical status meters on the top screen, lest they collapse from such cluelessly self-induced sleep deprivation; and this annoying back-pedalling hand-holding trait applies to all the bodily wants of your comrade. Thankfully, it’s no match for the horror that was the partner system in the first Lost in Blue, but that alone isn’t saying much.

To add to the slow trod of getting anything done in Lost in Blue 2 is the finicky inventory system. Perhaps it’s the open-endedness of using either the imprecise stylus or the plodding traditional d-pad and button setup; or maybe it’s the fact that each time you want to swap an item with another in your comrade’s backpack, time-consuming pleasantries are exchanged, or worse, the item can’t be swapped in the first place. Whatever the case, when it comes time to cook and your avatar is the only one able to possess a delectable brand of spice, you can only be content with swearing to the high heavens how much your partner’s cooking resembles rat poison without it.

Unfortunately, there is no 'common sense' meter for your characters.

Unfortunately, there is no 'common sense' meter for your characters.
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The quest for consumables is quite the centrepiece of progress in Lost in Blue 2. In order to keep your hunger, thirst and fatigue levels out of the red zone, exploration of the island environment, along with completing a series of contextual stylus mini-games found therein, is a necessity. When your duo first begins their lonely treks in desperation, they won’t be able to get very far without their stomachs grumbling; in fact, this constantly needy characteristic of the protagonists quickly becomes an over-measured and arbitrary nuisance, to the point where eating, drinking and sleeping is seemingly all there is to the game. This eventually changes, as player patience and persistence pays off once the party develops their skills at attaining sustenance and building tools. However, what doesn’t change is process of creating this inventory.

The manner in which the more interesting aspects of Lost in Blue 2 consist of various stylus mini-games harkens back to the freshman year of the DS. Whenever you want to cook, start a fire, go fishing, dig dirt, shake a tree, sharpen rock, create a trap, and so forth, a corresponding mini-game scenario will naturally begin; not unlike a session straight out of Cooking Mama, or indeed the first Lost in Blue. The cooking in particular is arguably deep in certain respects, as what ingredients you use and how you chop them have a direct effect on their nutritional qualities as a consumable; not to mention, how long you cook food for. It’s this sort of open-ended gameplay design that prevail the other mini-games also, making it even more of a shame that they’re all bogged down by having to repeat them to no end, along with the in-between bits of the rest of the game; again, much like the first Lost in Blue.

Where's The Swedish Chef when you need him? Børk, børk, børk.

Where's The Swedish Chef when you need him? Børk, børk, børk.
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The sense of Konami recycling much of the design and content from the previous Lost in Blue is evident even more so from a superficial sense. The graphics on a whole hark back to that same 2005 era, where even the protagonists look all too similar, bar their names. It’s no slouch in possessing an imitable visual quality of its own – with atmospheric environment and weather effects most notable – especially in light of the recent advancements DS developers have been able to churn out; but you can’t help but wonder if they could have done more. By the same token, the audio will bring a sense of déjà vu to fans of the first Lost in Blue, with almost identically styled low-key ditties accompanying exploration and mini-games, along with throwaway voice samples.

Whether they ever so slightly learnt from their previous mistakes or not, it’s not too hard to see what the designers of Lost in Blue 2 were trying to achieve. Here is an entirely viable island castaway setting for two, straight out of any identical literary text or reality show; or for that matter, a certain 2000 film starring Tom Hanks. With subsequently endless gameplay possibilities opened by such a story piece, especially on a Nintendo DS, it’s only natural that the foremost gameplay design would be to take advantage of the touch screen interface with numerous direct exercises in island survival. It’s a trite shame then that the rest of Lost in Blue 2 boils down to a dreary trial in patience and frustration.
The Score
While Lost in Blue 2 comes across as a carbon clone of its faulty predecessor, its small negligible improvements may prove intriguing to discerningly patient fans of the series.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Konami
Developer:
  Konami
Players:
  1

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