Lost at Sea is a first-person walking simulator where our main character, Anna, explores an island of her past memories to reflect on her life. The game also quotes John Lennon “Life is what happens while you are making plans,” and this lovely Indie title explores grief and acceptance. Self-regret is something everyone asks near the end of their life, and we get to experience this through the eyes of Anna who is aged. Lost at Sea is developed by Studio Fizbin, and is published by Headup Games.
The gameplay for Lost at Sea is simplistic to pick up, we begin our journey on a raft in the middle of an ocean and are taught how to use the game’s most vital mechanic, the compass. The compass has two dials on the top and bottom portion that can be controlled with the bumpers and triggers. Rotating these dials will allow Anna to be able to look for key items, otherwise the compass will spin around until we explore more. From the raft we see a small island in the distance and stare at it to approach. Once ashore the player must “Face their Fears” and avoid death from a purple ball of energy. Any time the enemy appears the sky darkens to night and our compass also helps locate the general direction of the enemy. To defeat or pushback the enemy, the player must simply stare long enough at the purple ball and it will disperse.
The game does have an autosave feature that regularly saves when progressed to certain areas. On this small island are three areas, or ages of Anna’s life. Each age has 4 unique items scattered around and the player must interact with them to add them to the compass. Following the compass will lead the player to location of the item that is needed and typically involves solving a short puzzle to earn. After finishing the brief puzzle, the item will appear with a glimmering light surrounding it. Our compass also changes when we find these items and are filled in to make it easier to figure out what the player is missing. Some other controls in the game include jumping and toggle sprint, also crouching but this was never used.
Once finishing an area and placing each of the 4 items back, a short look into Anna’s past will play out. These snippets are of drawings, and each explain Anna’s dark past with commentary from Anna. The story is what I enjoyed the most from this game, so I won’t spoil anything beyond her coping with the loss of family members, and even beyond death she also deals with the acceptance of letting love ones down. Anna feels directly responsible for what happened although she shouldn’t. She burdens herself with these heavy emotions and forgets to enjoy what life she has left. The more you discover of what she lost, the more the player understands her suffering. Her journey around the island helps her realize that her time left is precious, so she shouldn’t mope around with the little time left. It’s important to remember her past, but not to drown in it.
The puzzles are rather simple when acquiring items; an example would be following light orbs and protecting them from red mists that would reset the puzzle. There are also footprints in the sand she must walk along with but not cross or it will reset. Musical chairs were an interesting choice of a puzzle, but didn’t take long to solve. These puzzles are simple and short, but so is the game overall. Most players, without the use of a guide, will finish the game in about 2 to 3 hours. Once the player knows how to utilize the compass the game becomes very easy.
After each age has been filled with all 4 items for the area, a light orb will spawn and the game shifts from day to night. Each of the three areas all spawn a light and when followed they each go to the center of the island. At the center, there is a ship standing directly up and has water falling off of it. There is dark presence surrounding the pathway leading to the top and each orb will break a wall of darkness (Fear). Once the player has reached the peak the game will end and play a final outro to review all of Anna’s memories in a better light.
The audio is above the visuals in terms of quality and runs FMOD’s sound engine. The sounds of the island are mainly the sea rushing to shore. There are nature sound effects that can be heard, but all are turned down when the enemy spawns. The dramatic shift in lighting when the enemy is around should be enough of a warning, but you can also hear it approaching. Music is played only at certain times to emphasize the emotion of the scene that’s playing out. Other than the sound effects, the music is far and in-between. The game feels as if it’s aiming for a serene walk-through of Anna’s past and uses sound to entice an emotional response when the enemy spawns or when we are placing lost items down in their designated Ages. The voice acting is superb, Anna’s actress did a wonderful job carrying the game’s proper tone of grief and then acceptance.
The visuals for Lost at Sea are lacking in quality since the lighting can feel obtuse at times. Walking through certain areas will automatically shift the time of day since there are puzzles tied to night. Some of the water falling from waterfalls and sitting in small ponds have strange transitions and seem lacking in some animations for some frames. This can leave the water in the game to appear jittery. The lighting in the game can refract off of sand at times making the game appear bright, and then other times they may appear as if the beams are passing through the ground. This was apparent when I was climbing a small hill while facing the sun. Being more of an open world, it makes since why the developers added the quick-change of time-of-day feature to allow the player to explore freely and not be trapped in a linear pathway. I must admit that night on this island is gorgeous and a pleasure to look at. When the sun rises, and depending on the player’s location, the color scheme can shift from a warm summer vignette to a blistering bright sun beaming down. The game is vivid and full of color but can appear lacking in some aspects as the player explores. For the majority of the island, it looks baren but there is more to be seen.
The longevity for Lost at Sea is low in my opinion considering this game is designed to be played for the story which only last 2 hours. The main character is trying to grip reality and understand why life has been cruel to her, but she pushes beyond that to overcome her immense guilted grief she has placed upon herself. Granted what has happened to her is truly sad, but the player helps Anna realize her short time remaining and that she must look at life optimistically, otherwise what’s the point? Granted the game may be short, but discusses some heavy topics and left me thinking about the game well after finishing it.
In conclusion, Lost at Sea is a wonderful indie title that has been ported to Xbox and is worthy of playing on sale for those interested in the easy gamerscore. If you’re a gamer that enjoys a serene and introspective journey then this might be a game for you, it definitely is a game for those who are mature enough to comprehend Anna’s message and walk away with more empathy. You will spend roughly an hour walking around and half an hour learning of Anna’s past and her family. The clunky lighting can ruin the immersive experience and the game may crash like it did with me a couple of times. But these small details are outshined by the audio, narration, and story. If you’re not a gamer that would enjoy walking through someone else’s life, then perhaps this is not for you.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.