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Lost in Blue 3
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: Simulation RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 03/18/08
Japan 12/20/07
Official Website: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 75%
Sound: 80%
Gameplay: 80%
Control: 80%
Story: 80%
Overall: 80%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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If you're afraid of heights and/or drowning, you won't live long on this island.
 
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Singing to dolphins: just another part of island living.
 
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I've already gone up, up, down, down, and left ... I think I should go "right" next. This is a Konami game, after all!
 
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My inner monologue is terribly boring. Please forgive me.
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Patrick Gann
Lost in Blue 3
07/29/08
Patrick Gann

Once Konami (or really, any game developer) finds a good thing, it's typical for them to milk it for all its worth. Just look at the Castlevania series! That said, here we are, reviewing the third game in Konami's survival/sim RPG series "Lost in Blue." In this installment, we find a lot of the same things that made the last two games enjoyable, plus just enough new stuff to warrant a third release. It works for now, but if they release a fourth game following this same trend, the series is sure to suffer from what I call "Harvest Moon syndrome," where there's no need to follow every game in the series, because they're all virtually identical!

Lost in Blue 3's premise is similar to the others (and, of course, to the TV show "Lost"). Depending on which character you choose at the start, you were on a boat or an airplane that crashed, and you end up on a deserted island filled with mysteries. Now you have to find a way to survive, managing day-to-day tasks and still finding time to work towards solving the mysteries of the island and ultimately escape the island to go home.

A lot is carried over from the other games. Almost all of the in-game graphics are the same. We find most of the same items, many of the same mini-games (cooking, a variety of scavenging and building mini-games, etc), all using the same functional–but not entirely intuitive–stylus controls. Virtually all the game mechanics of the previous games return, with a couple of adjustments to improve the game's balance. finally, as I already mentioned, the basic plot premise is recycled. That said, let's cover what's new about this game.

First, we have a new cast of characters. The first time you play, you can start as either Sam or Claire. Sam's traumatic fall from the boat leaves him with amnesia, so that he cannot even identify himself. Luckily, Claire, his ex-girlfriend (who hadn't seen him in years until that boat ride) knows who he is and is willing to lend a hand. Claire is a young singer who entertained the guests on the boat before the crash. Sam and Claire work together, regardless of whom you choose as your "main" character at the start.

The third and fourth characters in the game enter your party later when you find them on the island. After you beat the game once, you can choose to play as those other characters and work from their starting points, gaining a new perspective on the game's story. The third character is James, a young, dark-skinned man with a lot of strength and plenty of attitude. Finally, near the end of the game's main plot arc, Sam and Claire meet up with a young Japanese lady named Kumiko. Sporting a nice pair of nerdy glasses, it's evident that Kumiko is the "techie" in your crew, and she becomes a valuable asset for dealing with gadgetry later in the game.

Each of the four characters have their own specialties: cooking, scavenging, exploring, and building. Sam can only "cut" and "grill," but other characters know how to make a stir fry, steam vegetables, and do plenty more. Claire has the ability to communicate with certain animals, such as apes and dolphins. Although James is unable to do any of the "arts and crafts" projects in the game, he is quite useful for scaling tall cliff-sides and breaking rocks with his bare hands. Kumiko is good at fixing stuff, especially the aforementioned electronic items (which turn out to be plentiful on the island after you make a certain key discovery about the island's past).

Another change to this game is that the previously "serious," realistic-looking anime portraits have been done away with. Everyone in Lost in Blue 3 is cutesy, short, and only a few steps away from super-deformed anime. Whoever made the decision to change the character art style must have intended to make the game more kid-friendly, but I lament the decision. Based on images alone, the characters of Lost in Blue 3 are the least appealing of the three games, but fortunately, there is some good back-story for each of them. Sam's is especially powerful, though the story sequence that reveals the "truth" about Sam is a little underwhelming.

For the most part, the soundtrack is also a collection of new, decent tunes, and Konami has included some basic voice acting for each character. They'll make one-sentence remarks during some dialogue, and they also make various grunts and groans while exploring the island. A word of warning: if you don't like hearing vomit noises, don't eat the mushrooms. It's not worth the risk.

Alright, time to stop playing "compare and contrast." Perhaps you've never played a single game in the Lost in Blue series. Worry not; there is no problem starting with this game. There's no direct plot correlation from one installment to the next. It doesn't matter which you play first, since the experience of "learning" the game mechanics is the same for all three games.

The game runs on a day/night cycle, and as time passes, three different "energy" bars slowly drain from the characters in your party. One is a "fatigue" bar that is replenished through rest. The second is hunger, and the third is thirst. You reach a "save point" when you sleep at your camp site, though you can also use a quicksave feature to suspend play. For the first week of island living, it's very important to just learn how to strike a balance between work (to collect food and water) and sleep (so you don't waste all your energy).

After learning the balancing act, you slowly but surely add new elements to your daily schedule. It's important to find time for both exploring the island further and finding time to get back home before night falls. Eventually, you'll have to build a bridge and make tools for survival. This pattern repeats with varying complexity, and the game never fails to challenge.

This is what I loved most about Lost in Blue 3: the difficulty level was perfect. I never felt tortured, but I also never thought "hey, this is easy!" Some tasks are tedious or mundane, but for the most part, the emphasis on time management and puzzle-solving really makes the game fun. The rewards may seem shallow (learning new recipes for cooking, getting the occasional cut scene), but put in the context of the game, keeping yourself alive is reward enough!

Another great thing about Lost in Blue 3 is how big it is. There are a variety of ways to "beat" the game (that is, leave the island). There is a log of your progress and discoveries that would take well over 100 hours to fully unlock, spanning multiple plays through the game, probably once as each character. Having looked at some basic walkthroughs for the game, it's clear that even after I played the game for hours and reached one of the "end" paths, I had barely scratched the surface of this island. Even the plot can only be fully revealed by playing as the multiple characters.

Other than the graphics complaint, the only other problem I have with the game was the lack of self-sufficiency on the part of your party members. When journeying the island, you can bring one member along with you or you can go solo. Either way, once you have more than two party members, someone's staying back at the base. You can ask them to complete a variety of tasks while you're gone, which is great, but they don't seem to take care of themselves while you're out. I often left tons of food and drink for them to prepare back at base, but they'd rather starve than have to do the work while I'm gone, so I'd still have to pamper them myself at night. This needs to be fixed in future installments.

I really didn't expect to like this game, or this series as much as I have. If you've never played Lost in Blue 3 or any game like it, you ought to give it a try. If you have played other games in the series, the decision to purchase this game hinges on how much you liked the previous titles, because there isn't that much difference between the three games, although I think it's fair to say that Lost in Blue 3 has the most interesting plot of the three. I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil it. Just trust me: it's a fun-filled romp through the jungle with no peer (outside its predecessors) on the DS.



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