Sun, sea and surf – your first impressions on being washed up on a desert island could well be remarkably positive, especially if you were an athletic teenager stranded with an attractive member of the opposite sex.
Of course, after a while various issues of water, food and shelter might start to intrude on even the most hormonally-charged adolescent mind, but before then there's always those four Ss...
The connotations of its title aside, Lost in Blue 2's gamemakers don't seem to have watched raunchy films such as The Blue Lagoon and Castaway – there's no hankypanky on this island. Indeed, the situation Jack and Amy, the two teenagers in question, find themselves in quickly proves to be little short of hellish.
The reason for this is you have to keep them alive by constantly maintaining their energy, food and water levels, the falling values of which mock you from the DS' top screen.
It's particularly rough at the start of the game. Without water you can't eat, without food you can't gain energy, and without energy you'll fall unconscious during the seemingly eternal search for more sustenance.
Conceptually, this all seems perfectly reasonable as part of the survivor experience. But in terms of a game, the speedy rate at which the meters drop is needlessly cruel, and food seems limited to tiny morsels that replenish less than what it cost to gather them. You'll also spend hours down by the river drinking.
At least the graphics and controls are smooth. As mentioned, you can see each characters' stats on the topscreen, while the touchscreen shows the island paradise. You move around by pointing at the ground with your stylus wherever you want Jack and Amy to go, or you can use a direct D-pad option.
Interacting with the environment is also as easy as a jab with the stylus. You can rummage through the sand to uncover shellfish, or shake trees to drop down coconuts and other goodies. Everything can be searched, examined and interacted with in satisfying, hands-on detail, while on-screen tabs enable quick access to context-sensitive actions and menus.
Once you've finally managed to rustle up some food, Lost in Blue 2 sees you preparing it in all manner of ways. While it's not Cooking Mama, these activities certainly help break up the monotony of collecting food in the first place. You'll do everything from slicing raw food to multi-stage recipes – all played out via mini-games that include things like blowing into the microphone to start fires. The better the quality of the cooking, the more energy you'll derive as a result.
These mini-games get more complex the further you get into the game. You can make spears to go fishing and hunting, as well as, we kid you not, having bare knuckle fistfights with alligators (they're obviously made of stern stuff, these kids). Still, the neverending requirement for new food – you have to eat several times a day, and carry extra meals if you're exploring – ironically serves to make monotonous the very things that break up the monotony.
Your companion also becomes the subject of much internal vitriol, burdening you with an extra mouth to feed and completely inept if left alone. You can toggle between controlling Jack or Amy, but even the Ico-esque touch of enabling them to hold hands so you can move them around together does little to create empathy for the other one, who, in the end, only serves to impede your enjoyment of the game.
Progression through the island environment does see new materials, food and skills placed at your disposal, and the characters become a little more fleshed out as big events such as earthquakes add some melodrama. And with an extensive list of tools available, survival eventually becomes much easier and more satisfying as you build tree houses, make furniture, and create traps and other hunting tools to source food.
Unfortunately, the time and effort required to be invested to reach this level will be too much for all but the hardiest adventure players to endure.
Lost in Blue 2 boils down to a slightly desperate tale of desperate castaways. There's little reward for its aping realism at the cost of fun. Rebalancing the game's central mechanics could have made it a joyous adventure, but the painfully dull micro-management of resources and the persistent monitoring of the characters' health meters destroys any joie de vivre.
What's really annoying is that very similar criticisms were levelled at the first Lost in Blue, seemingly to little effect. Maybe it's appropriate that, in turn, few players are likely to make the mistake of getting washed up on Lost in Blue for a second time.