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Lost Home (PC) artwork

Lost Home (PC) review


"You'll want to enjoy it, but it's difficult."


Lost Home has an endearing premise, featuring the tried and true odd couple trope made popular by Hollywood buddy films. We have the story of an armadillo and a snake, friendz4lyfe despite certainly being an unlikely pair, out to find a place to call home. Their journey will not be an easy one: the two will meet with countless, untold dangers in the form of other animals, and environmental hazards.

For the most part, the game's mechanics recall the NES classic Bionic Commando -- you can’t jump in Lost Home either. You control the two animals in tandem, moving from left to right, and in place of Bionic Commando’s grappling hook, the ‘jump button’ makes the snake lunge forward and upward at a 45 degree angle to latch onto branches and the like with her jaws. In this fashion, the two can swing across chasms and out of danger.

Obviously these two are not at the top of the food chain, so there is no head-to-head battling going on. But there are confrontations with hostile animals which must be overcome through cunning. You'll have to wait for pests like giant rats to turn their backs before you can sneak up on them from behind and lash out, once again with the snake's jaws, to incapacitate them.

For his part, the armadillo can be balled up tight and fired into the air, as though from a cannon, at predators lurking above in trees. This move seems to set him up to be the true boss killer. But where the armadillo really earns his keep is when you reach an impasse. Fire him up and over whatever is blocking the way, and venture forth, leaving the snake behind, while breaking down barriers like fallen trees and massive boulders before pinballing his way back to reunite with his buddy in order that the two continue on their way.

Lost Home (PC) image

The snake’s solo missions are introduced when you happen upon a body of water. The sequences play out like old Super Mario Bros. underwater stages, minus the flower power; you’re relying solely on your powers of avoidance.

All of this probably sounds at least a little bit interesting to you, if only because the animal pairing provides a fresh new spin, at least aesthetically, on some old school gameplay mechanics. The problem is that much of the execution feels rough, or unfinished. I encountered a few situations where I could not continue, and it was only through reaching out to the developer, Lunar Collapse, that I learned I was not advancing because I had ventured too far on my path-clearing missions with the armadillo and the snake was required to travel with me in tow for us to close out the level. This was not at all made apparent, and there were no gaming ‘fail safes’ to coax the player back on track.

In that same level, you must track the moving shadow cast by a hawk looming overhead; you can only move safely when the shadow is not near you, and you have to stop under the cover of foliage to allow the patrolling hawk to pass before you emerge from cover. It’s a cool idea, done a million times in different games, but nowhere exactly like this, and it should be a special bit of gaming. Instead, broken mechanics spoil the moment: sometimes the hawk got me when I was clearly safe, and other times I was caught out in the open and somehow survived.

Sometime later, the two friends turn on each other, ostensibly due to delirium brought on by the desert heat. As the armadillo, you must escape the snake who has suddenly become gigantic, at least in our (the armadillo’s) eyes. There's a neat bit of stealth work here, where you have to roll from bush-to-bush, staying out of sight of the giant snake. However, past a continue point later in the level, the snake gets out ahead of you, and that would be fine except that when I tried to hide in bushes this time, the snake saw through my hiding spot and killed me instantly. To make matters worse, when I respawned at the continue point, the snake would often appear in front of my first opportunity to hide, making for an instant death that was entirely unavoidable.

Lost Home (PC) image

I can’t understate this: when the snake wasn't appearing right in my face upon respawning, she was continually seeing through my hiding spots. I did manage to beat this stage eventually, by resetting the game and starting the level from the beginning, and ensuring that I had a perfect run (to avoid any respawn troubles) and by getting lucky -- on that particular run, the bushes hiding spot started working again.

It's moments like these that take away from what was certainly an ambitious and unique take on old school gaming. Unfortunately the broken bits do a lot to derail any fun that you might have been having. Lost Home had potential: it has cute characters, decent and upbeat tunes, and sprites and backdrops that are well-drawn if a little washed out.

But none of that matters in a game that is already so unforgiving to emphasize the relative helplessness of these animals (one hit, one fall, one anything and you’re both dead), and adds imprecise controls and terribly inconsistent gameplay to the recipe -- it all makes for an unpalatable mixture. It’s difficult for me to say so, because my interaction with Lunar Collapse was pleasant and helpful, and there are some good ideas here that speak of passion and creativity, but Lost Home gives the impression of a product which isn't quite finished. Hopefully they care enough to update it generously, or have the means to have a go at a new project altogether.

2/5

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2018)

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EmP posted January 12, 2018:

It's always hard when you come across a game you really want to be better because it lets itself down somehow. Lost Home sounds like it's trying to be one of the good ones. It's a shame it doesn't quite make it.

Good review, though.
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Masters posted January 12, 2018:

Thanks Gary, and thanks for the screens. Yup, it's disappointing, but I gotta be honest -- it's not fun to play.

Also, I'll have my day one review up on day four with any luck. =)

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