Lost in Blue is actually the third game in a series which started with Survival Kids, which came to the United States back in 1999 on the Gameboy Color.  When it was announced for the Nintendo DS, the initial buzz was that it was going to use all kinds of innovative features of the DS, including some that no other game has used. 

At E3, I had a chance to look the game over, and was really intrigued by it.  As we all know, however, games sometimes change between E3 and release.  Was Lost in Blue one of them, or did it all turn out all right after all?

Early in it’s fairly apparent that the graphics in Lost in Blue are very nice.  The colors all jump out at you and the game world itself is in 3D, although the camera angle is always either at 2/3 view or straight down.  You can easily see the differences in terrain, different items and creatures, and even see some nice lighting effects when looking at the water.

One of the few drawbacks, graphically, is that the characters don’t have a lot of detail to them on the main screen.  There are numerous closeups which show a lot of detail, making emotions quite apparent.  Most often, though, you’re looking down upon the characters from a fair distance, and it’s hard to make much out.  Outside of that though, Lost in Blue is graphically up there — almost, but not quite, on par with Super Mario 64 DS.

While the tunes in Lost in Blue won’t remind anyone of Final Fantasy or Castlevania, the music does a great job in setting the mood for the game, which means that for the most part it’s calm and relaxing.  Admittedly, there’s really not a lot of music in the game, which means that what’s there tends to stand out a bit more.

The sound effects are rather nice with different terrain causing different steps.  There’s a good variety of natural sounds from wind, water, animals and the surrounding area as well.  As far as Keith and Skye go, however, the sounds aren’t so good.  They don’t sound fully human at times, which detracts somewhat.  Along with this is the voice overs, which are few and sound somewhat choppy.  Also, there’s a limited number of them, so they tend to get annoyingly repetitive after a while.

The controls for the game are pretty simple and basic, although there’s a lot of innovation in how the DS itself and the touch screen is used.  For starters, A is used for various context-specific activities.  You can search the ground, talk to Skye, or climb up or down various things, all depending upon where you’re at at the time.  The B button is used to run, which wears down your strength over time.  It also cancels any action you’re in the process of.  Y is primarily used to take Skye’s hand or release it, although it’s also used to fish, hunt, or go spear fishing, as it uses any equipped item.  You also use the Y button to push items.  X is used to open sub menus, as well as in item creation.  The microphone is used in the game to blow air when making a fire, creating furniture or cooking.  L and R cycle the status display and maps on the top screen, while start pauses the game and opens the quicksave menu.

The interesting this is that this is the only game licensed by Nintendo which uses closing the DS as part of the gameplay.  In every other game, and in Lost in Blue other than the cooking mode, closing the DS puts it into sleep mode.  During cooking mode, however, you are sometimes required to close the DS to simulate closing the lid on a pot.  It’s definitely different.  The touch screen is used for a variety of tasks, including spear-fishing, digging in the ground, shaking a tree, building furniture and others.  It can get repetitive though, which is about the only bad thing about the controls.

Lost in Blue is the story of Keith, an eighteen-year-old boy who has just been washed ashore on a deserted island after a heavy storm sunk a cruise ship.  Of course, it’s not just about him, as there’s also Skye, a seventeen-year-old girl who is also on the island.  The goal, of course, is to keep the two alive as long as possible, hopefully to get them rescued. 

The game itself boils down into one main thing:  Keep enough food and water to keep yourself and Skye alive while also making sure that you’re both rested.  While doing that, make a home for the two of you as well as explore the island completely.  The only problem with this is that the game has a rather significant learning curve.  If you don’t do things right the first day or two, you’ll have a harder time keeping yourself alive in the days after that.  Once you get your feet under you, so to speak, though, keeping the characters alive is much easier, and then it’s just a matter of mastering the other aspects of the gameplay. 

You’ll find early on that picking food up off the ground won’t keep things going.  In fact, if that’s all you can find, you’ll spend all your days picking up food, and never even see the island.  However, once you manage to figure out how to create a spear, you can begin to catch fish and then will have less of a problem getting around and getting things done.  You’ll also have to learn how to build furniture to make the cave Keith and Skye live in more comfortable, which can be rather difficult, as the furniture building game is very fast, and it’s very easy to make mistakes and lose your materials in the process.  Luckily, the game has a save-anywhere feature which makes things like this, as well as those times that you want to experiment with various mushrooms, much less dangerous in the long run.

The other minor annoyance is the fact that mushrooms change effects in each game.  If a blue mushroom gave you energy earlier, it might kill you in the next game.  This is one case where a piece of paper and a pencil is almost mandatory, which isn’t good in a portable game.

There are multiple endings in the game, determined by how Keith’s relationship with Skye is by the end of the game.  Also, once the game is beaten once, Skye is a playable character and unlocks the cooking minigame to play as her.

It’s fair to say that Lost in Blue has a lot of gameplay.  With multiple endings and the ability to play as Skye after beating the game, combined with the fact that the game appears to have about fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay (longer if it takes you a while to explore the island) and the collectability aspect of filling the scrapbook, there’s a lot of things to try in the game.  At $30, the game is definitely worth the money.  It’s a fun, engaging little game and it’s very easy to lose an hour or two here and there while thinking “Let me try to make this one last item, or get one more fish…”