Stranded In An Ocean of Memories
HIGH The appreciation of life’s various phases.
LOW The dark ooze chasing the player randomly.
WTF The 20 school buses stacked on top of each other.
Did I do all right? Was it worth the struggle? What’s left of life in old age when all of my family members are gone?
These are major philosophical questions that every human may ask themselves at some point, but Lost At Sea manages to uncompromisingly translate them to a simple and relaxing experience, and the realization of this ambition is its main draw.
In Lost At Sea, a first-person puzzle-adventure, the player sees through the eyes of recently-widowed Anna who is questioning the actions and worth of her life. Combined with the loss of her only son, Anna’s sorrow is gut-wrenchingly palpable.
The game takes place on a small, mysterious island featuring a towering central fountain. This landmark is surrounded by four areas resembling various stages of Anna’s life — childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. Each of these areas involves finding four key objects, all of which will trigger memories illuminating Anna’s character and past. The basic flow is first uncovering an object, and then locating the object’s unique minigame on the island. Once that’s complete, the player is led to the general location of the next trinket.
For example, in the childhood section, Anna encounters the toys and teddy bears belonging to erself as a child. Using a navigator tool, the player can switch between such items, each directing the player to the unique location and related minigame for each item. They can be selected in whatever order the player desires, without any element of linearity directing it. Engaging in this flow is charming. We come to learn of Anna’s misery while traversing a soothing, yet barren land which ultimately creates peace of mind for both the player, and ultimately Anna as well.
The minigames are usually simple, though some aren’t explained as well as others. For example, one obstacle course did not convey the need to interact with certain obstacles. More commonly, the camera angle upon starting a minigame would direct me away from it. These were only minor frustrations, as I usually found my bearings after a closer look. Once on the right track, I was glad to see that these minigames were positive, engaging experiences overall.
Furthermore, these minigames are cleverly congruent with the periods they represent. The player jumps on trampolines and climbs on jungle gyms in childhood, while gaining paternal instincts in adulthood. It’s unexpectedly charming.
However, Lost at Sea stumbles a bit with a ‘dark ooze’ mechanic. This ooze blocks the player’s progression to later levels, and compared to the cleverness of the rest, it’s thematically weak and annoyingly time consuming. This ooze blocks Anna’s path while voicing her regrets and fears, and while I understand these feelings are natural counterparts to painful memories, having her be chased by this gunk added little of value and only served to slow navigation and needlessly extended the playtime.
I also wish more effort was put into a more enthralling exploration of Anna’s loss and regrets. Her speeches are awkwardly limited, and I would’ve loved to see her further fleshed out. The regrets and fears voiced by the dark ooze only materialize in a cryptic way, and we never fully learn the backstory behind it. A more direct confrontation with these fears would’ve made Anna’s recuperation from her losses all the more convincing. At the end of the story, it simply feels as if we have not yet learned enough about Anna to be able to help her, or to judge her.
Despite the mild annoyances and missed opportunities for further narrative development, Lost At Sea mostly hits its themes on-target and serves its message and philosophical questions confidently. With strong core elements in place, Lost At Sea is a recommended title to anyone who might want to explore this side of life in an interactive way.
Disclaimers: This game is developed by Studio Fizbin and published by Headup. It is currently available on PC, XBO/X/S, and PS5. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Mild Violence. I would add that the violence is not as evident as the mature themes, which make it a game I would recommend mostly to adult players.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. Playing does not rely on sound, although some audio clues are present, for example when running away from the dark ooze and in some minigames. The game is not fully accessible in this regard.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.