The best way to articulate how I feel – this is a game that has charm, both in its solid (for the time) audio/visual presentation, and in its complete disregard for you, your life, and whether or not you’re having fun. And somehow it works?
There’s not really any other way to put it: The Lost World is a brutal game. Taking place over five species, the first set of levels has you take on the role of the Compsognathus/”Compy”, the tiniest of dinos (which makes them sound adorable). From there, you work your way up other species (human, raptor) before arriving at a playable T-Rex, whose presence on the back of the box I can only assume is responsible for 90% of sales. Too bad you’ll probably never make it to that level legitimately.
From the onset, you’re dropped into the opening level with the Compy and…well, there it is. Figure it out, asshole! No explanation of controls/game mechanics, nothing. Once again, my habit for only buying games with case & manual pans out, as reading the manual gives me a 10% understanding of the icon in the upper right of the screen, “Instinct”. See, the more fighting and eating you do, the more you temporarily rage out, making you cause more damage to enemies. This is a particular bonus in the stages that have lots of enemies….or it would be, if the instinct lasted longer than 7-8 seconds. Shit, Mario’s invincibility lasts longer and gives me a nice little jingle. At a certain point, I just made it my mission to run through the environment doing as little combat as possible.
This…proved to be a bad idea. Playing a game at an unintended pace (way too fast or excruciatingly patient) can break some systems in games that are designed around a specifically expected type of user play style. I myself am used to playing through first-person shooters on high difficulties by going so. Damned. Slow. The game almost commits suicide out of boredom, allowing me to win by being the slowest bastard in the room, Here? Oh, there are checks and balances for those kinds of things…which brings me to the Brachiosaurus level.
This…this tested my patience the most. It isn’t even the hardest part of the game, it’s just built to crush a player that varies slightly from a specific intended pace. I mean, sure, I could have memorized the route I needed to take and been done with it, heck, I actually cleared the section in a cool five minutes the first time I played it before losing all my lives, but the next time attempt looked like something out of the silent film era. Time after time, I could help but get crushed, or stung, usually in the middle of a sentence where I explain how I’m about to succeed. With sufficient repetition, there’s a point where the situation goes from hopeful, to dire, to funny, to angry, back to funny again. The absurdity of spending 30-40 lives on the section becomes fun because of the miserable failure.
The sections after this really just blurred together into a series of pursuits. Run away! Swim away! Run away from a guy using a rocket launcher on a single tiny dinosaur(???)! None of it was as fun as that Brachiosaurus level, fleeing for my life like I was stuck in some kind of bullshit Looney Tunes factory. Outside of Sonic Spinball, I can’t think of a game that gave me a better experience of being a pinball. I’m A-OK with each of the remaining campaigns being so-so in terms of gameplay if they each have some kind of weird, but memorable section like this one. It’s something, damn it.