Lost / Eric Mayer (2001)

The Blair Witch's Verdict: I'll get you lost in the woods. And since these pages are scoring high on Google, is it REALLY necessary for you to use "paedophile" in the same sentence as your supposed friend?

The Universal ADRIFT  Supporter's Verdict: See? SEE what this thing can do? Taste my foul eggs!

My Verdict: God damn, that DJ made my day.

Game Information

Game Type: ADRIFT

Author Info: Eric Mayer is a successful author currently residing in Rochester, NY, and has a home page here:  http://home.epix.net/~maywrite/ . He's also one of a grand total of like ten other sites on the face of the planet, nay, solar system that link us, so props all the way around for that.

Other Games By This Author: The HeBGB Horror!,   The Secret in the Mithraeum, Even Bantams Get the Blues

Download Link: Available through this page: http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~jcw/adventure/

The Review...

Warning: This Review Contains Critical Spoilers For Lost!


Funnily enough, I have been the perfect, captive audience for the last three interactive fiction games I have played before starting Lost.. Either the number of games available has increased to the point where specific sub-sub-sub genres have developed, or the text adventure scene is in danger of truly collapsing upon itself. Sure -- some would look at the content of the site as of late, and the frequency to which it is (not) updated, and tear my proceeding argument apart by smugly stating "if you only play one new game a month, and you get to pick which game it is, then of course you're going to accuse the IF world of creepy, incestuous inbreeding." Tch. Look at this lineup, though:

Failsafe: Perfect player? A sci-fi-addicted fanboy that somehow still has an amazement at depictions of other "alien" races. Also, one who has played enough of these things to appreciate its unique interface and >> prompt.

Being Andrew Plotkin: Well, it works best if you saw Being John Malkovich, and played a lot of the games by Andrew Plotkin. I'm as guilty as they come in those respects.

Aggravatron: You most definitely need to find Ben Parrish funny like paedophiles find Mary Kate & Ashley hot, and have a trakball capable of withstanding the punishment with which this Hugo release places upon it and the compass menu.

So I suppose this had the possibility of starting a new golden age of IF for me. While I would maintain that audiences of all ages and experiences can enjoy Lost by Eric Mayer, I think it spoke to me because I once lived in an area very similar to the one depicted  and seem to be in a bit of wistful, regretful phase myself these days.

The game's premise serves to execute the real story contained within -- an orienteering group left some gear out in the woods, and you, the player, have elected yourself a most capable entity to go retrieve it. As this game takes place within a kind of reality, you do not afterwards assemble a party to go with you, consisting of at least one mage and cleric (and female elf because of the graphic designer's rather jolly skill with the pointy bits). No. No, then. This is a singular, silent venture.

'What kind of guy has the time and will to go skipping about the woods for something like this?' you might ask. Someone -- we find out quickly -- with a lot on his mind and not much to return to. This kind of solitude leads to reflection in Real Life (so I've heard) and it's equally effective within the context of the game. Picking up various items,or completing the few required tasks bring up quick flashbacks. It's revealed that the player character and his wife are growing apart. They seem to have reached a kind of separation, with possible finalized divorce on the way. We get the player character's side of it, and because I've been there, because I'm the one playing the game I am cheering him on throughout. "The ol' lady isn't the same one you met all those years ago? Damn straight!" says I. In my head, I am mentally playing the part of the well-fatted member of the studio audience who is doing some serious neck craning and shouting "YOU GO GIRL." The story definitely dominates the puzzles -- there aren't a lot of them in Lost -- two, really, if you can call them that -- and since I was able to solve them without resorting to the walkthrough, they then officially register on the RFTK Parrish Scale (which I have adopted myself) as some of the Greatest Puzzles of All-Time. Like it or not.

So, yes. The atmosphere and story are both good. Put me in this setting, like Winter Wonderland and Icewind Dale both did, and I am likely to engage in slobber mode and think of my own youth, where it snowed from September to May and you'd best be getting your Vitamin D from a pill in those months. Where Lost really succeeds for me, however, when it comes together with its "moment."

I'm often unable to turn off my "aspiring personal IF author" from screaming both suggestions and obscenities at games while playing them. While playing Lost, I was both hearing that voice say "put some shit out here in the woods, c'mon now, a banshee or something, whoo-hoo!" and "don't do that, because I'm inspired and will one day do something like this myself." Mayer renders the entire point moot by nailing the end-game. While there is not some dungeons-and-dragons-derived, +2 bastard-sword-wielding archetype floating about the woods at the end, there is a simple apparition that brings things together. During the entire game, we are given the player character's perspective on his relationship. He is neither prideful nor bitter... neither flippant nor perfect. Just a man, really. But he's observed that people -- specifically the one he was once perfect for -- change. Seriously change, over time. And dammit, that's happened to me. I've felt that in some of the failed ventures I've engaged in with members of the opposite sex that it would have lasted longer had it not been for them them them... and how they had changed, how they had "evolved," how their requirements shifted. Maybe it wasn't something I was psychotically dwelling on, but when Lost brought it up I knew what it was talking about. To then hear, from the apparition, the line :

"Do you think I resemble Beth? The dead are all alike. And what of the young man she married? Do you suppose he is any more alive?"

Well, hell.

No, I hadn't considered that. No, that hadn't occurred to me. Maybe I'm the one with some problems -- getting valuable psychiatric advice from a medium of computer entertainment -- but, no, it really didn't strike me that I could be the one that was changing as well. While "the answer" could very well be: No, you didn't change, Robb, you remained just as immature and impetuous as always, the fact that it could be different wasn't a possibility I had ever explored.  This kind of moment is really what you're playing IF for, and hoping to get, even when you're unaware of it five minutes beforehand.

After shaking off the revelation the game gave me, (for now, anyway) the ghost provides a choice: Go down, towards the past, to where there was still the hope of "everything turning okay." And then there was the step up, back towards your present life. Unfortunately for the game, the preceding scene was so effective that I no longer saw a difference between "player" and "player character." The previous ten minutes of learning about this guy's life went out the window: I had been sucked in, and it was my life we were talking about here. Would I go back? Maybe not. Would I go back, with the knowledge that just possibly I am as ever-changing as everyone else who has been close to me? Definitely. I could do something about it, then. Regret is a mostly useless thing, sure, unless you've got some way back into time to change things... like the game was giving me.

By making that pick, the sense I got was that I personally lost the game. An initial "WTF?" soon followed, but after going back and trying the other choice -- up -- I can see that it probably was the right decision for the player character. I don't know what the moral is here, really. "Quit sucking me in with your game so much"? Possibly not.

Lost is, and will be, the game that legitimized the ADRIFT engine for me. It's an effective little thing that spoke to me, and I can only hope that it can reach others -- and reach them well -- who aren't quite so messed up in the head.


Simple Rating: 9.2 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 8.0 / 10

Writing: 9.2 / 10

Playability: 7.5 / 10    (ADRIFT is at fault here, really -- the save and restore routine was broken when I tried it, and the installer was slightly annoying.)

Puzzle Quality: 4.0 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: 7.0 / 10


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