Check out our review of the emotional rollercoaster that is Lost At Sea…
The latest puzzle adventure game from developer Studio Fizbin, we’ll tell you everything you need to know before you play, including a look at the story, gameplay, visuals and audio.
Hey how’s it going guys! This is Tom from UDS and welcome to our review of Lost at Sea, a brand new narrative driven game by developers Studio Fizbin. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know before you play, and don’t forget to subscribe for more on all things gaming every single week. You’re not going to want to miss it…
Over the past decade or so, the term ‘Walking Simulator’ has had a bit of a bad wrap, but I’m not sure why. While some get labelled boring and unengaging, games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture prove that they can tell an engrossing story that doesn’t need overt action to grab you.
Lost at Sea is the latest game looking to achieve just this. Setting you in the role of Anna, a woman in the latter stages of life who arrives at a mysterious yet beautiful island. But as you explore your new, yet strangely familiar surroundings, you’ll soon discover this is much more of an inward journey as it is a physical one.
But does it succeed in what it sets out to achieve and should you play Lost at Sea? Watch on to find out?
I couldn’t start anywhere else other than the narrative, which packs an almighty emotional heft. Once you arrive on the island, you’ll start to relive key moments of Anna’s life as you piece together her fragmented memories.
This is achieved by tracking down items that trigger an emotional response. These can be accessed by completing environmental puzzles that either feel natural to the world, or intentionally out of place to augment the abstract tone of the island. Although none of the puzzles are particularly challenging, I think this helps to keep the pace of the story flowing without bogging it down.
Each phase of Anna’s life is represented by a biome, that’s filled with oddly unsettling relics of her past. Seeing everyday objects like children’s books out of proportion gives these areas a somewhat Superliminal vibe, helping to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. It’s really effective, making you feel like you’re sleepwalking through a dream.
As you can imagine, this all means we touch on some heavy themes such as loss, guilt and bereavement. This might not be the most enjoyable experience for some, so just bear that in mind for those who do decide to check it out. But for those who do, Lost at Sea is an effective meditation on trauma that almost everyone will be able to relate to in some way.
And this trauma manifests as the real threat of the experience. Appearing as this dark, spindly lightning, it’s never far away, taunting you or taking you out entirely. It helps to balance out the sometimes serene tempo of the gameplay, giving everything a sense of tension and menace.
Now one thing that is a breath of fresh air is the addition of sprinting. As you can probably tell, I do enjoy a walking sim from time to time, but even I get bored if your character trundles along with the speed of a geriactric snail. Fortunately, the change up of speed here allows you to get where you need to quickly, while also allowing you to slow down to take in the scenery and absorb the more poignant moments.
With that being said, the controls aren’t perfect. There were a few times that I clipped into textures, and although I never got permanently stuck, in a game like this that relies so much on immersion, it does pull you out of the moment.
There also seems to be no rhyme or reason when it comes to fall damage. Sometimes I’d survive a high fall, and others I’d get KO’d falling an inch. Again, it’s nothing game breaking, but does feel a tad sloppy.
But what I can’t fault is the visual style and sound design. Everything has a slightly saturated hue, once again blending the familial with the otherworldly. These are interspersed with illustrations representing key moments from the past. These build up gradually like a memory becoming lucid, and convey more emotion than a mere cutscene. Couple this with a great minimalist score and you’ve got an experience unlike anything else I’ve played so far this year.
Lost at Sea might not be without its shortcomings, but what it lacks in technical perfection, it more than makes up for with an expertly crafted narrative. It’s so easy to relate your own life events to those that you work through as Anna, and by doing so it might even help to add some context or perspective to your own experiences. Regardless, it’s absolutely gripping, heartbreaking and engaging in all the best possible ways. It might not be one to play more than once, but that one time will stick with you forever.
But what did you think of Lost at Sea? Please let me know in the comments below, I love reading your thoughts. And while you’re there, please consider subscribing for more video game content every week, or visit upsidedownshark.com to find out more about everything we’ve got going on.
But until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.