A lanky young man with chestnut hair and squarish glasses seats himself in a train car with no more than two people. As the train continues to move, a young woman in a pink blouse and white skirt sits near him, able to catch wind of his sheepish glances. The man, Lou, struggles with approaching the woman because of his self-doubt. However, as the player enters the narrative of “Lost Tracks,” he or she is able to help Lou conquer his fears and uncover his innate courage.
The player dives into Lou’s subconscious, a dark and dreary amalgamation of ominous forests, barren lands and sinister caves, all representative of his jarring fear and lack of direction. With the objective of encouraging Lou to liberate himself from his mind, the player must accomplish the tasks covertly provided by the game. The game also suggests players wear headphones, hinting at a three-dimensional experience.
Developed by students at VIA University College, Campus Horsens, “Lost Tracks” upholds a calm and tranquil front. Using muted colors, the game is visually pleasing, with environments welcoming to the eye.
“Lost Tracks” uses a set of controls I found particularly inconvenient and unappealing. Rather than taking advantage of simple taps and touches, the game takes pride in its tilt controls. While holding a finger on the screen to make Lou walk, the player must lean the phone toward the left or right to change the direction he follows.
The game is divided into three sequences: Look, Listen and Speak. The first chapter, Look, places Lou in a forest inhabited by railways. Guided by a ghostly white figure, the player must control Lou and trigger a number of train signals to allow the train to depart. This particular sequence was not too difficult, but the tilt controls made it a hassle to navigate through the slopes, bridges and trees. On the other hand, this sequence was paired with a dynamic soundtrack that abruptly shifted from ambient and elegant to eerie and strident as I entered darker parts of the forest. I began to panic due to the anticipation of unfavorable occurrences, but I realized this sense of anxiety only proved the game’s mastery in stimulating the state of mind.
The second sequence, Listen, was not an easy play-through. Lou found himself in an empty, snowy landscape. I heard a phone ring in what seemed like a far distance and inferred that my objective for this level was to direct Lou to the phone. I found this fairly difficult because I had to listen to the ringing for a long period of time and simultaneously guide Lou toward the sound. If the ringing was louder in my left earphone, then it meant I had to travel toward the left. If the ringing was in the center, then I knew I could walk straight ahead.
Speak, the third and final sequence, placed Lou in a dark cave with a seemingly endless wall of eyes that glared at his very being and challenged the confidence he built up after completing the prior stages. The player was required to speak into the microphone at varying pitches to complete each level. At the end of this stage, I was expecting another sequence, but was only greeted with a cut scene of Lou finally approaching the woman he longed for. I was disappointed with how short-lived the game was, as it definitely needed double or even triple the sequences to feel like a full game.
The game was outstanding in almost all aspects: visuals, music and story line. Its control scheme and brevity were the only downfalls, but were not major issues that devalued the experience. Fans of immersive gameplay will revel in “Lost Tracks” and its unique artistic style, masterful audio and interesting concept. “Lost Tracks” is available for free on the Apple app store.