The search for Oceanic flight 815 just got thousands of new pairs of eyes. ABC has launched a new Web-based alternate-reality game (ARG) to promote the fourth season of Lost, which begins January 31.
Late last month, ABC sent out a press release announcing that Oceanic Airlines, the fictional trans-Pacific commercial airline featured in Lost, was back in business again. The release was accompanied by a new Oceanic Airlines Web site that appears to have been hacked.
A video showing an ad for the company is interrupted by an unknown man promoting a second Web site, Find815.com, and looking for the truth behind the plane's crash. Viewers soon learn that the man is an Oceanic employee named Sam Thomas who lost his "partner" Sonya, an Oceanic flight attendant, on flight 815.
Find815.com hosts a point-and-click adventure-style game as well as high-quality videos that show Sam's search for answers. As users uncover clues by searching through e-mails and comparing photographs, new videos are opened up for viewing. The game consists of five chapters that will unfold each week until the show returns to the air.
A timer at the bottom-right corner of the screen indicates when the next update will occur, which as of press time was 6 p.m. PST. Those who find themselves addicted to the game won't be alone; a blog dedicated to the site has already launched with detailed information on the game, including screenshots, walkthroughs, and source-code analysis.
The producers of Lost have always attempted to make the show more than just a passive viewing experience. This is the second major ARG to be centered on the show; The Lost Experience was spread across Web sites, voicemails, TV ads, and more in May 2006.
ABC has also released a video recap of the first three seasons of the show on its Web site (click on "Catch up on Lost" in the video player). The clip, which runs eight minutes and 15 seconds (Lost fans will be familiar with those numbers), plays at a rapid-fire pace and is a great crib sheet for those who may have forgotten what has happened.
Lost makes its fourth-season premiere in its new Thursday night time slot at 9 p.m. on January 31. For more on the show, including an extended trailer for season four, read TV.com's previous coverage.