The original Lost in Blue gave gamers a chance to live out the classic survival scenario: you’re stuck on an island with nothing but your wits to help you survive through the ordeal. Although the original game incorporated an impressive number of the DS’s capabilities in its gameplay, even with such ingenuity, a few problems marred the overall package and kept it from achieving its full potential. Konami has aimed to right these wrongs in Lost in Blue 2, and though they weren’t completely successful, they have made enough progress to call Lost in Blue 2 a completely competent successor to its forebear.
The game begins in medias res with the main character (either a girl, Amy, or a boy, Jack) in the midst of a crisis as the ship he or she is traveling in begins to sink. With no time to do anything but get out, the main character is eventually thrown out into the ocean and washed up onto the beach of a deserted island. Soon after waking up, a companion is found in another shipwrecked teen, and the two decide that in order to survive, they have to work together and find a way to keep on living until help arrives. The story can be slightly different depending on what gender the main character is. Although the main storyline is the same, a few key events during the plot are different depending on the main character. Character development is somewhat sparse, with some integral scenes setting the foundation of Amy and Jack’s relationship; depending on how the player handles the conversations the two have, they can become anything from friends to love interests. The story itself moves rather slowly, as the game mainly revolves around survival tasks. That’s not to say there’s no story, it just gets dragged on because of how the game itself is designed.
The top screen of the DS shows Amy and Jack’s vital stats. These values are separated into four different categories: Health, Fatigue, Hunger, and Thirst. Hunger and thirst are self explanatory, while Fatigue drains slowly as long as Amy or Jack is awake, and can only be recovered by resting or sleeping. If fatigue hits 0%, then health will start to decrease, and when health hits rock bottom, that’s it – there ain’t no getting off this island you’re on. Using the shoulder buttons can toggle the top screen to reveal how much of the island you’ve explored or a handy map when traversing the island.
The bottom screen is where all of the action takes place. On the map screen, the stylus is not a requisite; in fact, using the directional and face buttons on the DS is far easier than attempting to move and pick things up with the stylus. This quickly changes, however, since pretty much every other task requires lots of use with the DS’s stylus. There’s a specific minigame for each task in the game, and each minigame uses the stylus in a distinct and unique way. Cooking, for example, can encompass moving the stylus up and down along a piece of fish to slice it into pieces, then drawing a circle around it to flip it over while grilling it. How well the player performs in this minigame also affects the quality of the food that results, and subsequently how filling it is to Amy and Jack. At the start, there is a meager number of tasks the player can engage in, but as Jack and Amy explore the island, finding new items and discovering new locales, more and more different tasks open up: you can fight aggressive wild animals, catch small woodland creatures in traps, hunt for fish by spearing them, create furniture for your cave, dive into the ocean to dig for items, and more. The player can do all of these things or stick to a routine that constantly keeps Amy and Jack healthy; it’s completely left up to the player – which, unfortunately, can be somewhat of a problem itself.
The first few hours of the game involve surviving against the odds. Amy and Jack start out cold, hungry, thirsty, and scared. To make matters worse, the food that can be procured at the beginning of the game add precious little to the pair’s hunger bar, and the two require so much rest and such large quantities of food that the game’s outset can be quite daunting, especially to series newcomers. The player can have the AI-controlled character help them forage for food or cook, but unfortunately, the AI is completely incompetent in both aspects; it’ll bring back poisonous food just as much as it brings back the safe ones, and the food it cooks just aren’t filling at all – the player might as well just have kept things in his or her own hands. This is just the insult to the injury: the AI controlled character can’t do anything on its own. Leaving food and bottled water in its inventory will allow it to replenish its hunger and thirst when the character hits danger levels. If you leave it alone for too long, however, the annoyingly stalwart AI won’t even think of sleeping and will stay awake night and day in the cave, becoming ever more fatigued while awaiting your glorious return and slowly eating away at your reserve resources at the same time. There isn’t even a convenient excuse for the helplessness this time, either; the AI character’s eyes can see perfectly fine, unlike the prequel’s Skye. Couple the fact that the AI is completely unable to fend for itself with the constant, detailed attention that both characters require in order to survive, and you have a game the can test the limits of patience for almost anyone who plays the game.
After finishing the game, an extra mode opens up allowing the player to ditch the brain dead companion in favor of a solitary survival journey, and at any time the player can connect with a friend’s DS for some multiplayer minigame fun, but the former lacks the character interaction that makes the story interesting, and the latter’s collection of new minigames just isn’t really all that fun when it comes down to it. The only people who will enjoy these extra modes are those who enjoy Lost in Blue 2 for its gameplay, and only its gameplay. The game also features multiple endings depending on the method the player uses to escape from the island, how long Amy and Jack have been on the island, and the level of their relationship, so when it all comes down to it, people who want to get more out of the game can get at least twice as much as the original 20-25 hour playthrough offers.
Lost in Blue 2 supposedly takes place on a different island, but it looks nearly identical to the first one. In fact, not only the island, but also the menu, minigame visuals, even the characters themselves are almost exact carbon copies of the characters from the first game. While the graphics are all around decent and easy on the eyes(though some slowdown pops up here and there when the environments get really busy), it’s disappointing to see that even though the game takes place on a completely new island, Konami didn’t think to include any areas that are aesthetically unique to the game itself.
In addition to the landscape, the music is pretty similar to the game’s predecessor. Instead of sweeping scores, Lost in Blue 2 has many short, forgettable music clips each time the player enters a new area or the time of day changes. It also features a few voice clips that, while nowhere near terrible, aren’t anything spectacular either. The sound effects are rather well done, though, with each environment having sound effects unique to its atmosphere, creating a convincing ambience for each locale. Again, however, these are pretty much ripped directly from the original game, so it’s no wonder they’re the basically the same quality.
While Lost in Blue 2 has a bit too much in common with the previous game, it is by no means a complete retread. New unique minigames and a gigantic island to explore makes Lost in Blue 2 an engaging purchase for anyone who can get past the daunting first few hours of extreme survival. However, the one-two combo of a companion who lacks any sort of survival competency and the required precise micromanagement of each character’s vital stats can tempt even the most hardened survival buffs to snap their DS clean in half. Next time, Konami, pair us with someone who actually knows what the hell he or she is doing. Even my Hero Complex has its limits.