Lost in Time
Recently, while minding my own business, a thought entered my head. It wasnt deliberate and I did my best to ignore it but it surfaced and made its way across my brain regardless. Id like to share it with you: having just seen both Nikita and Delicatessen on tv, and having just finished both Flashback and Lost in Time on the pc (yes I finished it, which means this will actually be an authoritative review for once. Cripes!), and having eaten in a number of French restaurants, Ive come to the following conclusions: firstly, the French creative media (be they film, tv or computer game manufacturers) seem to have a bit of difficulty with endings with regard to pulling them off satisfactorily: secondly, they use too much cheese in their food. (Apart from that Ive nothing but respect for our French cousins. They did give us Jean-Michel Jarre and, um... oh, now thats interesting. Ive tried to come up with two internationally beneficial things the French have given us and come a cropper after the first. I wonder if thats a criticism on me or them?) (You, definitely you - Politically Correct Zone lawyers.)
Anyway, to tie this back to the review of Lost in Time, (just in case youd lost track of what this drivel was all about) after what was a very promising start, the game tends to fall away towards the end as if everyone involved just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. Its a shame because, had more time been spent developing a really gripping ending. Lost in Time might have been on for a nomination in the Best Adventure Game of 1993 award. As it is, I think its just on for Best Special Effects and the Richard Attenborough Most Innovative Contribution to the Adventure Game Genre Award.
Back in time
But lets go through the game step by step, starting with the plot. Hoo boy, and you thought Back to the Future 2 was confusing. You know how usually with games you often know more than your on-screen alter ego? Here, it seems, Doralice (our heroine) knows a lot more about whats going on than you do. Thats quite disconcerting when you actually think about it; a fictional character under your control that has more knowledge of whats going on than you.
The plots actually a lot cleverer than you would think. It would seem that a certain Jarlath Equs (I cant work out whether its pronounced E-Kews and as such is a satirical swipe at our potential single European currency, or just E-Cus and is just a strange futuristic name), all round bad guy and resident of the year 2092, has gotten his hands on some kind of rare metal with immense manufacturing power - allowing for kettle.s and toasters which can survive atmosphere re-entry burn-ups, that sort of thing. There is a drawback, however, in that its radioactive and has a half-life of 3000 years.
Fortunately, time travel is as common in 2092 as regular trains arent in 1993. Taking the Americium 1492 (as the metal is known) back 3000 or so years in time, Jarlath buries it and tries to keep track of it until it will be safe to unearth. During this time, however, it gets discovered and moved around a bit so Jarlath has to keep jumping back and forth in time to keep possession of it. His last move was in 1840. Taking the treasure away from its current owners (a tribe in Africa) he hires a ship to take it to a seaside manor in Europe and wrecks the boat off its shore, hiding it for good. Jarlath then buys the manor ensuring that no one will discover it.
Thats where you, as Doralice, come in, or rather'it isnt (this is the confusing bit). The game actually starts on board the ship in 1840, but as you get further into it you suddenly enter a flashback bit (and yes, the screen does go all wobbly) as you play the events in 1992 where Doralice inherits the mansion, discovers the shipwreck and goes back in time (the reasons for which are never fully explained). This is what I mean about the heroine knowing more than you. Throughout the initial shipboard segment, events keep happening that dont seem to phase Doralice at all, but leave you going Huh?. Its only when you play the 1992 section that things fall into place.
The other part of the game is also in 1840 and takes place on the African island. This is where Doralice discovers exactly how she manages to inherit a mansion that belongs to someone from the future, has to save her own great great grandfather from being killed as an infant and finds out that her great great step-grandfather (or something) is someone who isnt likely to be born until she has been dead a good 30 years (this is also a rather confusing bit).
Thats enough about the plot
How true. Ill leave you to find out all the precise details since my brain hurts and I want to get on to more familiar territory, that is, talking about graphics and sound and atmosphere and so on. On the subject of atmosphere, this is possibly the weakest part of the game. You're definitely playing ah adventure game here, not really experiencing an interactive movie (or whatever the current us buzzword is). Lost in Time seems to have trouble actually working the story into the game, especially when you compare it to something like that old benchmark fave Monkey Island II. Whereas there everything you do feels like a continuation of the story, here its very much here's a situation, work out the puzzles and Ill explain some more of the plot to you as a reward.
Now, its true that the puzzles and situations are good enough to keep you plugging away at it, its just that when you do get through them jt doesnt leave you feeling particularly satisfied with your achievement. If the designers had put a touch more effort into spreading the development of the story throughout the games puzzles, adding some nail-biting, heart-a-flutter tension and more capacity for mistakes to be made (the only time death is possible is at the end and, as such, it comes as such a surprise to the rest of the game you are tempted to shout Cop out! at the screen), the atmosphere would have been much more intense.
Love me, love MacGyver
I'd often wondered how you judge whether an adventure game is suitable for beginners or experts or whatever; now I know. The puzzles in Lost in Time range between difficult and trying to get a freelance cheque to arrive in time to pay the rent' (i.e. impossible). The manual describes Doralice as having a love for MacGyver and Mission Impossible and programmes of that ilk and believe me, to solve some of the puzzles you need to have very thorough experience of scientific application and lateral thinking. I was only able to solve a couple of the puzzles because Id been shown them before at a press showing of the game.
This is perhaps the strongest aspect of the whole game. It may not tell the story well but it certainly keeps you plugging away at it. Oh to have the storytelling and presentation skills of LucasArts combined with puzzles of this calibre. A good demonstration of this is shown in the My, what a hard one vicar' panel. What I would like to have seen more of in this regard would have been time travel related posers. Remember the apple tree problem in Day of the Tentacle? With a game that has time travel at its core youd think that wed see some pretty outlandish situations. All we have are good old fashioned brain-stumpers. Good enough to keep you going for a while but like I said, not rewarding enough to make you feel as though its all part of the plot.
Out of Africa
Up until now we've had an adventure with good points and bad points but one that, on the whole, has been fairly enjoyable. All that changes once we reach the third section of the game - the African island. This is what I meant at the start of the review by weak endings. The puzzles suddenly become very simple, almost ridiculously so compared to the rest of the game. Plus you are suddenly given the chance to fail completely by missing one thing (leading to being suddenly and very unceremoniously dumped to a black screen with a small box saying essentially: You failed, try again). Add to that the plot winding itself up so fast you dont realise its over until it dumps you back into dos. I felt very disheartened by this end piece, especially the final confrontation. It fell very solidly into the James Bond syndrome. (So you see Mr Bond, because you are going to die in a moment, I might as well, tell you what Im up to.... The plot is then explained and Bond escapes and manages to foil it. See also Scooby Doo Syndrome, The.)
I havent mentioned the technology yet, simply because it was covered in issue fives preview and I dont want to make too much of a fuss about it here. You can see what it looks like from the pictures and Im sure that if you wanted to see it moving that nice man with the suit at your local games store would be happy to give you a demonstration.
Do they suit the game though? Well again, yes to the first two sections but no to the third. The video and the rendering are both very nice indeed, but the cartoon artwork of the island comes across quite messily and doesnt seem to mesh with the overlaid digitisation of the characters as well as the other two parts did.
Im going to say weir now...
Well, here we are again, dear friends, safely tucked away in Sum-Up Corner. Whats the overall verdict of the game? Its an odd cookie, this one. Technologically gifted yet communicably challenged. The graphics are very nice (with a few pixelly exceptions), especially the video sequences. I wouldnt mind seeing a whole game using the 1992 segments photo-realistic images as they helped to keep me hooked amidst the protests of the storytelling.
If it wasnt for the final island chapter I would probably be standing with the nice folks in Recommended City. Because of its rushed climax, though, Im looking at a two up, two down in Try Before You Buy-Ville. I really hope that there will be a sequel, simply because there are some very nice ideas here that should be explored further and the game just doesnt deserve to end this weakly. Maybe something with some real time travelling paradoxes to mull over and something much, much longer and with equally clever puzzles. Oh yes, and something with a real ending, real nail-biting edge-of-your-seat stuff. That would be nice. Lost in Time though? Well, first decide if you really want another adventure game then decide if you can overlook the ending and hey, go for it. If not, well theres bound to be something better waiting just around the corner.
Most of the recent crop of graphic adventures on cd-rom have been impressive in the graphics department, but sadly lacking in gameplay. When I first loaded up Lost In Time and had a look at the introduction, I slumped back in my seat and prepared myself for more of the same. It was something of a relief to discover, upon exploring the first few levels, that there's a lot more to this game than meets the eye. This is an adventure game in the traditional sense, in that you have plenty of scope to travel from place to place exploring all the locations and interacting with everything you come across.
The story puts you in the role of Doralice, a woman who inherits a mysterious manor house in 1992 and wakes up on a shipwreck in 1840 with a bad case of amnesia. Further investigation of the ship reveals clues that slowly develop the plot and explain how Doralice came to be in her current predicament.
The usual point and click method of interaction is incorporated. Clicking on items of interest will give you a close-up view where you can search for other objects or use the one in your inventory. Any significant events are automatically recorded in your notebook and you can uncover vital clues by reading this carefully. There are points in the game where you get hopelessly stuck, but playing one of your three jokers tells you what to do next. There's no point playing these unless you're absolutely desperate because the last few stages of the game are a nightmare to get through and you need all the help you can get. Lost In Time doesn't quite have the atmosphere of previous Coktel Vision releases like Ween or Inca but it's highly addictive and the graphics and orchestrated sound track are first class. Once you get into it you won't want to do anything else until you've cracked it.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode