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This third installment might charm new fans while veteran players will enjoy new challenges, expanded game play and improved graphics.

Nintendo DS Review: Lost in Blue 3

This third installment might charm new fans while veteran players will enjoy new challenges, expanded game play and improved graphics. The familiar, selective play mirrors several other role playing/unique titles, but this series sticks to its roots as players progress to different areas/temporary homes into more environments including jungles, swamps and caves. Eric, Claire, Kumiko and James are the game’s four characters. Each has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, though players usually can’t go wrong with the base character Eric. Each character has a back story (check the unlockable cut scenes), but minimal social requirements, so you don’t have to micromanage them, just work on getting off the island and back to your life. But wait, this survival stuff is pretty fun, especially when you control your own pace. You should talk to your fellow character(s) every day just to keep them happy. The only real visual gauging of this happiness, and your own, appears on the top screen during game play.

Players can also access a map for improved navigation, which comes in especially handy when collecting items and locating other characters. Just lead the character in the direction you want to go. You even sprint after walking for a while plus just touching items on the ground automatically puts you in that location to pick up the item. Characters can join then separate at any time, plus characters will complete tasks you give them and automatically help keep the status quo like getting firewood for that all important fire. The microphone is nicely incorporated into starting the campfires. Making furniture and necklaces is practical and fun. Players eventually can amass a nice set of unlockables including furniture pieces; food recipes and character cut scenes.

The other characters also help; the interchangeable inventory is another strategic element of your survival. Claire is a great cook and usually gets high ratings, which makes the meals more valuable as an energy replenisher. Be sure to keep her inventory open. If you take up too many slots (16 empty slots is the maximum for her) she can’t make much food. You can also make packed lunches for long trips or as gifts, just don’t let them sit too long or your square inventory icon will turn red, signifying a bad, smelly meal. This set back might make you a bit sick (your thirst for water might increase or you can’t eat – more icons signal these conditions) and slow you down, but you can usually recover quickly. Nothing really devastates players in this game, which helps avoid some aggravation with younger gamers.

Weather also plays a key factor, as players must strategize their movements and activities each day (for example, a quick “grab and go” strategy works well in adverse conditions). Players can usually find helpful items along the beach shores, especially during big storms. Large logs help players get a leg up on navigation and progression so be sure to bring your partner on long trips. Game makers do a good job expanding the A.I. and independent activity of the other characters. You can also find useful items like an oil drum to hold water, so characters can get a drink any time they want and you don’t have to lead them to the river all the time. Native animals including alligators, anacondas, dolphins, deer, bats and a talkative chimpanzee add some nice elements to this survivor potpourri.

Most of the activities are self explanatory and the puzzles includes some important numbers, so you may want to keep a pen and pad nearby, unless you can remember six digits numbers. It’s takes strategy and key observations for great success in this title. Taking notes doesn’t hurt either, which means walkthrough and guides might help some players new to the genre/series. The step-by-step instructions guide players through each action, which shortens the learning curve a bit. Water related activities include rafting, diving and fishing. The seafood boosts energy the best and catching these staples in the water is one of the more rewarding activities. You can fish using the spear plus many other useful hunting/gathering jobs by combining gathered items.

No overall tutorial here, you just learn as you go, which boosts the surprise filled storyline, which only occurs if you decide to progress. There’s no real advantage to finishing quickly, besides bragging rights, so take the time to soak in everything this game has to offer. You always get new challenges and problem solving tasks, often through conversing with other characters, like preserving food and keeping it up high away from pesky mice. It’s the strongest of the game series so far (the first 2005 title is hard to find and the second installment was just released last year) with longer life stamina and different endings, so take your time and enjoy. The single player mode provides a nice primer to the multiplayer games, which include download play for up to four players (lots of room for expanded play here).

This game has plenty of exploration opportunities for players willing to work through the game, especially the rafting element, which takes you full circle to your original base location. Some discoveries, like Claire’s ability to crawl through small spaces in the jungle, could’ve yielded more benefits for the player. Some climbing expeditions would be great for the next installment. A solid title for all ages that like a little challenge and fun multiplayer mini-games on the side. After you conquer the game and watch the ending credits you can play again as any of the four characters. A possible Wii release might expand the series even further.

Lost in Blue 3 is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Violence.

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