Lost in Blue was my pick for Game of Show at E3 2005. The Nintendo DS was finally coming into its own at that point and Konami was right in the mix, pimping out some very promising NDS titles, with Lost in Blue as the most interesting. The concept was simple: a boy and a girl wake up on an island after their boat sinks and they must help each other survive while exploring the island, solving its mysteries, and trying to find a way back home. The concept isn’t exactly new; in fact, Lost in Blue is the spiritual successor to Konami’s own Survival Kids franchise from the 8-bit NES era. Regardless, I was immediately captivated by the natural, serene beauty of the game.
Looking back at the first Lost in Blue, it must have been a feminist’s nightmare: the woman stays in the home (read: cave) and cooks, while the man goes out and hunts for food and brings water and firewood and other necessities back to the home. This is explained away somewhat by the girl being mostly blind (after the male character inadvertently steps on her glasses), but it becomes painfully obvious three minutes into the sequel. The relationship between boy and girl character is the most notable difference in Lost in Blue 2, and the roles are much more even. For starters, players can choose to be either the boy or the girl from the very start of the game, either of which have only slightly different abilities – for instance, while both the boy and the girl can both gather firewood and food and build and even cook in this game, the boy can climb higher ledges while the girl has a superior jumping ability. This provides slightly different avenues of travel while exploring solo.
The island is larger and much more robust than in the first Lost in Blue, which is likely why the male and female roles were individually expanded. Even so, the game is quite a bit more brutal. Earthquakes now send players scrambling, while tsunamis make it impossible to travel anywhere until they pass. So, even though players can ask their male or female live-in to gather firewood or food or to craft rope and smoke fish, ultimately a lot is still left up to the player. It is rather important, for instance, for players to do their own cooking as it usually yields better results.
Some may find this monotonous and repetitive. The nature of the game, though, is survival. The key is in gathering enough supplies to enable the characters to go out and explore the island. Eventually players will be able to leave the cave and set up a new headquarters while yet digging deeper into the mysteries of the large, strange island. While much of the gameplay is admittedly rote, Lost in Blue 2 does a better job than the first game of offering new options and discoveries to the player while still compelling them to explore and making the game increasingly more difficult.
A few complaints are in order, though. The graphics are exactly the same as the original title, though it’s worth noting that they still suit the game style just fine. The aesthetic nature of the game is improved by the expanded scope this sequel offers but admittedly not by any evolution of the graphics themselves. The musical score is fine but not as noteworthy as the original Lost in Blue, but that’s really a minor point. The last real complaint is the artificial intelligence of the player’s partner. For some reason, they don’t take very good care of themselves when the player goes exploring, unless the player lies and tells them that they will be gone for days. Sometimes they do eat, though. Newcomers to the series may be out of their depth just a tad, and even veterans might have trouble in some parts.
The best new feature of Lost in Blue 2, though, is the full stylus control. Taking a cue from Grasshopper Manufacture’s Contact and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy III, Lost in Blue 2 now allows players to perform everything – except for switching status screens with the shoulder buttons – using nothing more than the touch screen. This includes movement which was only possible via D-Pad last time. Stylus control is absolutely preferable to D-Pad control, but for those unwilling to make the switch, the original Lost in Blue control scheme is also present. One note: if the stylus is calibrated properly, players should have no trouble controlling the boy or girl in their pursuit of survival, though at the corners of the screen it can be a little touchy. For instance, occasionally my character would move if I hit the A