Forever Lost: Episode 1 HD Review
Forever Lost: Episode 1 HD is a brand new, bite-sized adventure from UK-based Glitch Games. Is the game worth the key-hunting and clue-collecting insanity, or is it better off forever lost in the ether of the App Store?
The game feels like a love letter to all of the creepy Flash-based locked room puzzlers that littered the internet during the early Aughts, but delivers the experience with touch controls and HD graphics. For the uninitiated, these "escape the room" type of adventure games were usually first-person point-and-click offerings where the player wakes up locked in a room with no memory. There would be a little back story in the form of text or maybe even just a note that says, "This is what happens when you don't moderate your tequila intake." The starting room would typically have few furnishings that hid precious clues, items, or even keys that could lead to the player's escape only to discover that they're in a bigger facility. So the first thing one should do in these games is click everything. In Forever Lost's case, your fingers should do a compulsively frantic tap dance across the Retina screen on all of those suspicious-looking objects. "That vent looks like it'd hide a key, right? Right?! Man, this place wouldn't be so bad if it had WiFi!"
Once you make it out of the starting room, you find yourself in a hallway filled with other rooms. Down the hall is a bulletin board that has a map. The map lets you know that you are in an asylum, and while it is helpful, it is also devoid of any markings for exits. Great. As far as presentation goes, Forever Lost does an alright job of delivering the first installment of an HD horror experience. The walls are aged and grimy, while all of the clues look like they'd give me tetanus through my iPad. The music serves up some tension as haunting piano is accompanied by whispers, filling the otherwise empty hallways. The graphics and sound add to the foreboding atmosphere, but the gameplay and puzzles are the real stars in these kinds of games.
Episode 1 takes about one to two hours to complete, depending on your pace. You can play it at your leisure and tackle each puzzle one at a time in order to extend the experience. Or, if you're like me, you will obsessively try to solve puzzle after puzzle in an effort to prove to a machine that you're not some dull-witted sack of flesh. Some of them are as simple as swapping tiles to complete a picture or as complex as finding hidden images in multiple rooms and using them to figure out a lock's combination. There are lots of items for you to fill up your inventory and to use on other objects in an effort to open up more rooms. For those of us with little or no recall ability, Forever Lost mercifully has a feature that lets you use a camera to take pictures of anything. And if you're stuck and frustrated enough to the point of chucking your iPad across the room, the game also has a list of hints in the menu that act as a checklist of objectives.
In the end, Forever Lost: Episode 1 HD is a good setup for a series, but still ultimately feels like a dolled-up version of its ancient, Flash-based predecessors. The package is pretty, yet not without some flaws. The game crashes on occasion, the menu navigation is slow, and a few puzzles required a lot of backtracking. But for the price, it's not a bad trade-off, especially if you prefer the cerebral over the visceral. And hey, it could make for a good distraction if you ever wake up locked in a room with no WiFi.