Despite No Man’s Sky taking gaming journalism’s crown for most polarizing opinions so far this year, Lost Sea is without a doubt one of the most conflicting games I’ve played in a while. It’s a game I certainly enjoyed for certain quirks it possessed but questioned others. It was a game that tickled that entertainment centre just enough to make me want to explore and play around in it’s world but there was somewhat of a feeling that it just lacked a little.
The No man’s sky is actually a pretty apt comparison, as the game totes a similar feature of randomly generating each island you visit so that no one play of the game is the same, but Carries the same crux of many islands feeling the same, just laid out differently. This is unfortunately hard to ignore once it becomes noticeable to you and does cheapen the experience a little bit when you visit the same structure in an almost identical manner with the same enemies and collectibles present as a previous area a few islands ago. However, there is almost this sense that this was an intentional choice at times.
See, Lost Sea encourages you to play this game for as long and as best you can in one session, to the point of offering you an achievement for beating the game in two hours with no skipping in a single session. It operates on a permadeath system of survival. You die, that’s it, you’re done, back to the beginning! (Save of course for being resurrected by your companions.) You’re offered rewards depending on how much you’ve collected and how many of the golden tablets you managed to find before your death so as to start with money on your next session to begin with a minor head start. But it goes further than that in saving none of your upgrades for your character or ship after you switch off your console or any of your progress in the amount of levels you’ve beaten in each area, however does save each area you have unlocked so you can warp there every time you boot up.
This was a complete surprise to me upon my second boot up of the title, initially leaving an somewhat sour taste in my mouth realising all my upgrades had all but vanished and the islands I explored just before the first boss were no longer explored. However it does somewhat light a flame beneath you to try and beat the game as quick as you can and ignites a method of playing akin to how I used to game as a child, which to it’s credit also feels very much intentional. Throughout my younger years of gaming, I countlessly replayed the same games (in particular playstation demo discs) at the very good often making the same amount of progress or having all my progress lost due to lack of memory cards, lack of space, or simply just having younger siblings unknowingly delete them as they tried to play games at far too young an age.
When it finds itself tapping into this well of nostalgia, it becomes a wonderful stint of hack & slash adventuring. The package as a whole does somewhat seem catered towards this almost child friendly aesthetic as it opts for bright cartoony visuals and simple controls. Not at all a detractor, it plays to its strengths. Within playing your first level you’ll be already familiar with the controls and have a solid grip on how to play the game. You have a single swiping attack, with disposable items that are either beneficial to you, health, armor, invincibility etc. or give explosive results. The style is bold and vibrant, each zone standing out with its colour scheme and environmental cues for each theme, with cutesy and creative enemies that are more pleasantly created than they are intimidating, save for when you get mercilessly attacked by a large group of them all at once. Music is a serviceable and suits the areas you inhabit, but nothing you will find yourself humming after a session.
That’s not to say it’s a childish game, it can show that it actually has hard side to it, as the game becomes a lot more difficult to traverse if you warp to each zone and don’t play in continual sessions. By stripping you of all upgrades every time you boot up the game, later areas are a lot tougher when enemies have a significantly more health and strength than you, encouraging you to see the game through on long play sessions. The simplicity it exudes has the feeling of a mobile game while have the expectation that you treat it as a console title. It’s accessible to everyone but isn’t afraid to drum up a little challenge in the process.
However, this of course isn’t to everyone’s cup of tea and essentially losing your characters progress can impair your enjoyment at times. The foundation of a mobile game is there and it certainly feels bizarre that they didn’t port it to a handheld system where it would shine and wholly benefit from saving each island’s progress.
The camera was also rather cumbersome. Presented in an isometric view, you can spin the camera around yourself freely, but it cannot be moved up or down. More often than not I found myself wanting to just ever so slightly get a better view of where I was, wishing I could move it up just a fraction. A small problem but an ever infuriating one.
Lost Sea is a relatively fun little game. Odd design choices do hold it back from reaching its full potential and mining the survival nature of the game. Granted, it can be beaten in a short few hours, meaning some glaringly annoying traits generally don’t stick around long enough to be an overall major problem. And for just €15, you’re certainly getting what you pay for. While I wish it did things better, it made for an interesting little indie experience.