Also on: PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Studio Fizbin
I don?t have any issues with games that are artsy. I don?t have any issues with walking simulators. But Lost at Sea is obnoxious enough that I?m ready to reconsider both positions.
It?s pretty clear that the game has grandiose ambitions and wants you to Feel Things (capitalization absolutely necessary, since this game has deep thoughts). You can tell this because it uses the (not really) John Lennon quote ?Life is what happens to you while you?re busy making other plans? right on the game?s intro screen (not to mention all its storefronts), and the whole game is about a person coming to grips with an emotionally challenging time in their life. (Spoiler: it?s a partner with dementia, because that?s the clich?d thing to do, and Lost at Sea is nothing if not clich?d.)
You do this by wandering around an island hoping to stumble across items from your past. When you find them you have to solve puzzles so you can unlock them and bring them back to different moments in your life, which in turn triggers an image with some faux-deep reflection.
Somehow, though, even that description makes Lost at Sea sound much more interesting than it is. For starters, the puzzles aren?t particularly challenging or interesting. In fact, calling them ?puzzles? is stretching the term as far as it will go — we?re talking about things like asking you to bounce higher and higher on a trampoline, or playing musical chairs. If you find any of the puzzles difficult, there?s something wrong with you.
Of course, the bigger issue here is finding the puzzles. For one thing the game equips you with a compass that?s mostly useless. It may point you towards your objectives, but more often than not it feels like a vague suggestion than a useful tip.
Further, the items you have to find are all basically glowing points of light. While that?s fine, everything here has a weird glossy sheen, which means it?s awfully easy to see a glimmer in the distance, slowly walk across the island to reach it, and then find you?ve walked all that way for nothing.
Even worse, you have an enemy of sorts here: a dark cloud that comes out of nowhere and sends you back to your last save point. You can try to outrun it, but there?s no rhyme or reason to when it will catch you or when it will let you be. While I?m sure it?s symbolic, it adds nothing to Lost at Sea beyond being a really annoying obstacle that simply prolongs the agony of playing the game.
It would be nice if there was some redeeming quality to Lost at Sea, but I really can?t think of anything. The voice acting is forgettable, though it?s hard to tell if this is because of the voice actor or because she?s trying to make the best of a lousy, barely existent script. Likewise, the music is completely forgettable, to the point I have to keep going back to the game just to remind myself it?s there.
In other words, Lost at Sea is the worst kind of bad game: one that?s just plain boring. You can?t even take enjoyment from its lousiness. It?s competently done, but it?s a dreadfully dull experience, and for all the game?s efforts to make you feel something, the only emotion it?s likely to evoke is boredom.
Headup Games provided us with a Lost at Sea PS5 code for review purposes.