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Publisher: Big Fish Games    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 128 MB

Virtual Villagers - The Lost Children
June 1, 2007 | Samuel Slesinger

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In the sequel to Virtual Villagers: A New Home, The Lost Children continues the “epic story of the castaways of Isola,” according to Big Fish’s website. With “new parts of Isola to explore, lots of unique items to find, [and] new surprises every time you play,” the ingredients for a sequel are all present.

According to the story, the castaways from A New Home had successfully established a village on Isola Island. Having thoroughly combed the area, two particularly adventurous villagers entered a dark cave and found themselves, via waterfall, in an uncharted part of the island. There stood a group of mangy children, and the task of establishing a successful community once again.

The village people
Like the first game, one must oversee a population of castaways on the island of Isola. They are responsible for assigning the inhabitants to routine tasks such as farming, building and researching, as well as not-so-routine tasks such as embracing, swimming, and reproducing. There are 48 unique items to collect and 16 puzzles to solve, which range in difficulty from inanely straightforward, to incoherently complex.

By definition, The Lost Children is a simulation game. The player does not personally engage deeply with any particular character, but instead manages the village people as a collective team. Unfortunately, there is often nothing left for the player to do once the tasks for the villagers have been assigned. As a result, one can either play in shifts throughout the day, or hyper-manage. At one point in the game, I found myself hovering over my villagers like an authoritarian dictator, eliminating their bathroom breaks in order to increase productivity.

The progression of the game is very linear. If your initial tribe dies off, you can follow the same sequence of events to achieve progress slightly faster. I use the word slightly, because in general, the pacing of The Lost Children is painfully slow. The game does offer options for time progression (half-time, normal and 2x), but even on 2x speed, the villagers often balk at your assignments, and it can take several real-time hours for one task to be completed.

When Big Fish boasts that The Lost Children has “new parts of Isola to explore,” this is not so much hyperbolism as it is false information. There is one new “part” of Isola, and the exploration consists of pressing the M key, which displays a map of the entire, relatively small playing area.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the game though, is the text cards that frequently show up when the player returns to his or her tribe after a break. What I presume to be one of the game’s “new surprises,” the text cards are often nonsensical, deceptive, or pointless. I was once asked, after one of my villagers “found” a mysterious mirror, to choose between two words, one of which the villager would then say aloud. My choice had no discernable effect on the rest of the game.


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