Thursday, May 3, 2007
Lost in Blue 2
If you ever imagined being stranded on a deserted island with a single companion of the opposite gender, you now will be able to live out that fantasy. No, this is not a 'reality show'. This is 'Lost in Blue 2', a game for the Nintendo DS system.
It is not the first time a game of this sort has been made. Lost in Blue 2 is the successor to the original Lost in Blue game, which itself was based on a game entitled 'Survival Kids'. As is often the case with games like this, Lost in Blue 2 has benefited from the problems encountered in the earlier games in the series and is more fun to play than the original Lost in Blue or Survival Kids.
In the original Lost in Blue game, one had to take the role of the boy in the first game and actually complete the game before one could play the role of the girl. Furthermore, the girl in the original was utterly hopeless. It was not entirely her fault. When the boy first found her stranded on the beach, he accidentally stepped on her eyeglasses, rendering her virtually blind. In that game, she was unable even to venture outside the cave unless she was holding the boy's hand. In Lost in Blue 2, the girl actually can be sent on errands alone: she can forage for food, firewood or water.
Unfortunately, although one can play either the boy or the girl from the very start in Lost in Blue 2, the girl still has inferior physical abilities and as a beginner, it is easier to play the part of the boy and only begin a new game with the girl once one has mastered the intricacies of the game.
The premise of the game is that, having been shipwrecked on a deserted island, one first must struggle simply to survive but ultimately, one actually must escape from the island in order to complete the game. One can build a great Treehouse and even have three separate homes in different parts of the island. One can hunt and fish, and learn to cook beautifully. The problem that drives one onward to escape finally is the fact that the island is the location of an active volcano. Progressively violent earthquakes force the characters to recognise the futility of any plan to make the island a permanent domicile. Alas, however comfortable and aesthetically pleasing a Treehouse with beds covered in furs might be, one never can feel secure there.
Fortunately, one does have plenty of time to enjoy the primitive life style that the island can offer. Moreover, there is a romantic aspect to the game, albeit understated. All is proper and morally unquestionable: the boy and the girl sleep in separate beds at all times. Even so, there are ways to court one's companion, and there are advances to be made romance.
Lost in Blue 2, like its predecessor, is extremely realistic in many respects. One of the most impressive aspects of the game is the manner in which one starts a fire. Using the L and R buttons, one actually must twirl a stick made from Twigs back and forth on a bed of Tree Bark. When a wisp of smoke can be seen, one then must blow repeatedly into the microphone in order to create a true fire. The fact that the firestick often will slip from your hands if you do not maintain the proper rhythm when twirling it, and the fact that the fire does not start immediately when you blow into the microphone only add to the realism of this task.
There are many other aspects of the game that use the Touchscreen in creative ways. When one uses a Spear to fish, the stylus actually becomes the Spear and one really must 'spear' the fish that appear in the water. When one 'searches' the ground, one must brush away sand, leaves or dirt using the stylus to uncover items. When cooking, one uses both stylus and microphone. When grilling food on a stone, one must flip each piece of food over with a circular motion, using the stylus. When steaming food, one must blow again into the microphone. When cutting food to make a salad, one must use the stylus as a knife and when boiling soup, the stylus becomes a spoon to stir the pot.
Hunger, thirst and fatigue are the ever-threatening enemies in this game, but one can encounter animal predators on this island as well. When one encounters any predator, one uses fists, spear or bow to defeat or kill it. When a large animal is killed, one will obtain meat, lard and fur. Fur is used to upholster furniture. Lard is used both in cooking and to make torches. Meat can be cooked immediately or smoked and made into 'jerky'.
Exploration of the island involves journeys through many diverse areas. There are four beaches to explore, each with its own characteristics. There are grasslands, grassy steppes, a Jungle, a Lake and a Swamp. Apart from the natural settings, there are man-made Ruins.
Essentially, one learns that every item has a purpose. Even leaves should be collected for use in mattresses and to cover the walls of Treehouses.
Building furniture uses the Touchscreen rather creatively as well. One must use the stylus alternately as a saw and in order to carve notches into wooden posts. One then must make certain that the pieces can be joined properly before one can hammer them into place. Sometimes one must turn a piece of wood from side to side and up or down a few times before the two pieces can be joined together. It can be rather a challenging puzzle on occasion.
For those who enjoy more detailed work and who are ardent about fishing, lures can be carved from wood using the stylus for the purpose of catching rare fish. As one might expect, different lures work on different types of fish. There are many varieties of fish to be caught in this game.
Individuals who tend to be impatient and who require intense action at all times will not respond positively to Lost in Blue 2. This game appeals to those who enjoy total immersion in another life. Existence in Life in Blue 2 requires repetition of the same tasks. Food and water must be gathered daily. The fire must be fed. Tools wear out in time and must be replaced. While performing these daily chores, one must continue to explore the island and perfect a means of escape.
Finding a boat is not really a problem. A lifeboat will wash ashore at some point, and one can choose to build a raft on the beach instead. Leaving the island, however, will not guarantee a successful escape. It is vital to have a means of communication with a potential rescuer as well as maps for navigation. Finding or obtaining these items takes time. Learning to survive in the most efficient fashion takes time as well. One must have patience and endurance in order to win this game!
Despite or because of this, the game actually does make the player feel that he/she is living a double life sometimes. When I have made another fire, defeated a wolf, collected 5 bottles of water for the oil drum and made a few Lunchboxes from meat caught in a small trap, I often feel exhausted. That surely is a good day's work! After that, however, I must make dinner in the 'real world'. All that cooking on the Cooking Stone will not give any sustenance in my 'other' life! Furthermore, it can be rather frustrating to have mastered the art of trapping and shooting a large animal only to realise that no one ever will appreciate my exploits apart from my 'virtual' companion on the island.
This game is very 'real'. Once I actually awoke in the middle of the night, wondering if I had asked my companion to smoke all the meat I had brought home. If I had placed it in the Smoker but not asked her to make smoked meat, the meat simply would rot away unnoticed... Another time, I awoke at night to the sound of violent rain on the roof and thought: 'Oh, that means all the vegetables and all my traps will have washed away. What a shame!' A moment later, I realised that the storm in THIS world would not affect the island in Lost in Blue 2.
If any one is limited physically in this reality, a game like Lost in Blue 2 gives one the freedom and mobility one longs to regain. For any one who is housebound or otherwise restricted, a game like this is can be a godsend. It is far better than any amount of psychological 'therapy' in easing the burden of frustration and helplessness that disabled individuals often experience. For those who are not limited physically in any way, Lost in Blue 2 offers an opportunity to experience a 'primitive' lifestyle, one where paperwork and bureaucracy is supplanted by simple survival skills.
Lost in Blue 2 is made by Konami for the Nintendo DS platform. It is a fairly recent release and should be available at most outlets. I have written a General Guide for Lost in Blue 2 that is published by IGN.