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Cold, Hungry and Thirsty 

Game On

It's a cold, cruel world out there."Lost in Blue 2" returns to the Nintendo DS to make sure you know it.

Most games want you to win. Unlike gambling games, where the basic premise holds that sooner or later you need to lose so that the casino makes money, videogames are designed by developers who want the player to succeed. Mario might grind through level after level, only to find that the princess is, in fact, in another castle. But sooner or later, he'll get the chance to beat Bowser.

To make sure players win, game developers have invented an arsenal of game-winning aids. Health packs, recharging defense shields, extra lives and restart points all work to ensure that any mistake is reversible.

"Lost in the Blue 2" remains ambivalent about whether or not you win. After escaping a sinking cruise ship, teens Jack and Amy find themselves castaways on some deserted atoll. With only each other and the bounty of the jungle to support them, they must find a way to stay alive while awaiting rescue. But with all the wild indifference of Mother Nature herself, "Blue" barely even wishes you luck as it throws you into a contest of survival of the fittest.

Forget about Gilligan's bamboo cars, palm-leaf huts and coconut-shell margaritas. On the sandy beaches of "Blue," you live in a cave, battle spiders and snakes, and fend off starvation by eating seaweed and testing mushrooms to see if they are poisonous. The first time you play the game, you'll be lucky if you can get a fire started, and, even at that, you're not likely to last two days before you die of exhaustion, hunger or thirst.

Tapping the DS touch-screen to spark a fire and then blowing into the microphone to fan a flame to life, hunting for parts to make a fishing pole and grilling food provide the rustic fun. Each of these mini-games offers minor relief from the monotony of daily self-preservation

In its way, "Blue" works as a more savage version of "The Sims." Rather than promise salacious soap-opera sex and spats, this game taunts you with the challenge of whether or not you could make it stranded in the wild.

The trouble is, even though the game lets players boss around either Jack or Amy, the only decision you're making there is which brain-dead companion you will leave to wander aimlessly. Send your partner out to forage for food and then, by bad luck, get trapped on a rock by the rising tide, and what happens? While you cool your heels and wait for a chance to get back to shore, your survival teammate mindlessly sits, dying of thirst and hunger. If only you could vote the other castaway off the island, you'd probably have a better chance of making it yourself.

Who's It For:

Part role-playing game, part undiluted frustration, this title provides a challenge for the kind of person who'd actually like to participate in a season of "Survivor."

If You Like This, Try That:

At its heart, "Lost in Blue 2" is a collection of mini-games. If you'd like fewer struggles and more mini-gaming, try "Cooking Mama" for the DS or "Cooking Mama 2" for the Wii. Both provide loads of simple activities organized around the theme of cooking.

Best Part:

After a while, dying loses its sting. Players eventually resign themselves to the harsh realities of life as a castaway and focus on problem-solving - like remembering whether it was the brown- or the red-spotted mushroom that sent your character into a life-ending illness the last time. Or maybe it was the black one.

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David Thomas

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