Lost Sea Review
Simple to pick up and play, Lost Sea is an island hopping, treasure seeking adventure suitable for all ages.
Lost Sea has you, as a plucky adventurer shipwrecked in the Bermuda Triangle, exploring archipelagos of differing climates in order to find a way home. Played with a spinnable top-down view, the sharp cel-shaded visuals and easy controls are ideal for drawing in and occupying younger players.
The first thing you’ll do in Lost Sea is grab a machete, which is fortunate — you’ll soon discover that angry monsters inhabit the islands you travel. Charging dinosaurs, ground-pounding yetis, and savage boarmen are just some of the many creatures that don’t appreciate your presence; with different behaviors and playstyles, enemies can be a little tricky, but not overwhelmingly so.
Lost Sea is split up into a number of areas each with a chain of islands, ending in a boss island with a powerful foe. In order to leave the island you’re on, you’ll first need to explore and retrieve magical tablets, bringing them back to your docked boat. Each tablet lets you move a fixed, exact number of islands: picking up a “3” tablet lets you move three islands along the chain. No more, no less. Each island has three tablets hidden around its territory, so retrieving more than one can give you multiple options about which island ahead you’d like to visit next.
During your journeys around the islands you’ll bump into a number of strangers, each of which is willing you accompany you on your adventures. There are a number of useful skills that these companions can have, and each one you meet has a few of them at random — such as repairing bridges to open up new routes, picking the locks of treasure chests, or being able to revive the player as they fall. Conveniently, they can also be assigned tablet duty, carrying one so your own arms are available to fight enemies or carry a second tablet, cutting down on travel time.
Only one companion can follow you at a time (with more unlockable later on), so you’ll often need to decide whose skillsets you value most to come with you. As you leave an island, only active companions will follow you to the next; someone with a bridge building skill might turn out useless one island later when you come across buried treasure, wishing you had someone with a digging skill instead.
With enemies around, companions will quiver in fear and stop moving, so you’ll have to take out any threats nearby else they’ll stand there forever. Besides that, they’ll follow you endlessly until dismissed or dead, although we found that sometimes they’ll get stuck on terrain. Unlike other games, if they’re stuck and you keep moving, they won’t teleport or magically catch up; you’ll have to go around and manually retrieve them.
As you progress, you’ll accumulate plenty of gold and XP to spend. These can be used on a solid variety of upgrades: XP unlocks character enhancements such as the ability to sprint or roll, additional health or movement speed, or increased inventory space, whereas gold improves island travel and exploration, such as marking tablets and companions on your map.
To spice up gameplay a little and encourage extended playthroughs, Lost Sea cherrypicks features from the “rogue-lite” genre — character permadeath, and carryover bonuses. Rogue-lite games feature lots of player deaths and make up for it by helping you get stronger, and thus progress farther, each playthrough. Accumulating, persistent stat gains are vital in rogue-lite games. Lost Sea, however, doesn’t quite get this right.
In Lost Sea, once your character dies you’ll receive a tablet bonus of additional starter gold and XP depending on the number of tablets you picked up in that playthrough. Sounds good, but here’s the huge problem: Those bonuses only apply to the next playthrough. If you have a great game scoring lots of tablets, you’ll enjoy high bonus starter stats next time, but die early in that next run and the following session will receive nothing, basically starting from scratch. This discourages long-term playing as you’re not genuinely getting stronger, although Lost Sea is a smaller and more casual game length-wise than the usual rogue-lite.
Lost Sea is a fun, easy to jump into action game for younger players. Large, randomised islands help occupy a lot of time, although the poor implementation of the gold/XP carryover system gives a sense of artificial game length and difficulty. A great game for teens and younger kids, though older players may be turned off from a lack of depth.