With the crisp autumn wind blowing through our hair, it seems the time for a spooky game has never been better. Surely enough, Zoink and EA Originals are here to deliver with Lost in Random. Taking immense influence from some of contemporary animation’s better works, and featuring a unique battle system, Lost in Random has a lot to offer. However, does it find its way to greatness or end up… well, lost? Let’s find out.
Beginning with the premise, Lost in Random tells the story of Even, a young girl on the cusp of her twelfth birthday. What would otherwise be a joyful occasion is this time one of fear and sorrow. As it turns out, within the world of Random, the wicked queen makes the rounds holding a dice of faith (technically a die, but just go with it) on each child’s twelfth birthday. She roles the dice, and where it ends up is where a child is placed. A one, seemingly the worst role, dooms you to a life in poverty, while a six promises splendour and happiness.
As it turns out, a year before, the queen visited Even’s sister Odd, and after a choice roll of the dice, ended up taking Odd with her. This event lead to great anguish for Even, and she decides to set out before her fateful roll to rescue Odd. Along the way, she meets a sentient die named Dicey and a colourful cast of characters to aid her in her quest to save Odd and maybe even the world of Random.
The writing in the game is rock-solid across the board, as are the performances. Zoink has taken what could be a profoundly silly premise, and developed it into a greatly entertaining romp. Standout characters such as See-more and Dicey make the journey all the more enjoyable, and there are several moments of great dialogue. However, the biggest accomplishment in the game’s writing is world-building. Random is home to a unique series of locations such as Two-Town, a world with two towns stacked on top of the other, with the upside-down members of the down above directly mirroring the residents of the one below. Random is itself a twisted dark fantasy nightmare of a place that is always captivating.
However, writing is only one part of the game, and the aesthetics also deserve immense credit for breathing life into Random. The style of the game itself is very clearly inspired by the works of Laika, Henry Sellick and Tim Burton, creating a nightmarish carnival that stimulates the senses. This style is also incredibly detailed, nearly perfectly mimicking the look of stop-motion animation, albeit at a higher framerate. The world feels hand-crafted, scary, fun and original.
However, there is no game without gameplay, and this is where I feel Lost in Random unfortunately begins to falter. The game, while you may be mistaken for thinking is a 3D platformer, is actually a hybrid of Turn-Based RPGs, Action, Adventure, Tower Defense and Deck Building card games with board game elements. A mouthful, I know. You start off each encounter with a deck of 15 cards that can be changed within the menu. Your goal is to shoot glowing crystals with your slingshot (it does no damage otherwise) and dodge attacks to fill up your meter to randomly select a card. After receiving up to 5 cards, you can roll Dicey with the Y button to get a random number between 1 and 6 (it’s lower in the early game). After rolling, you can pick whatever cards are available and play them. These can be weapons, healing potions, traps and hazards, etc. Then you resume the fight.
It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice, there are some issues. The camera itself, even when locking on to an enemy is rough. The controls feel straight out of Hellblade, but the game’s combat system with weaponry feels far floatier than that game. Even herself can’t always take a hit, and with the random nature of Lost in Random, even with a well-built deck you can be begging for a weapon or health potion and receive none. Worse yet, many of these encounters can take over 5 minutes. Some, which echo board games, can take well over 20. If you die, you go back to the start of the encounter, and it can feel like it takes forever, especially when the odds are not in your favour.
The game also has a ton of combat encounters, which after a while start to feel the same. While there are varieties to some of the enemies, they mostly are the same, and as such, late-game encounters start to feel like a slog. Sometimes less is more.
All of this being said, I think the options available in Lost in Random will endear players to the system. This is definitely a case where personal mileage may vary, so I recommend you watch some gameplay videos to determine if this game is appealing to you. More so than almost any other game, a (moving) picture is worth a thousand words.
Finally, in terms of value, Lost in Random costs £24.99. While I feel there is a bit too much padding in the game, the price overall is quite fair.
All in all, Lost in Random is a very unique game. It has great writing and some of the best art direction of the year. However, the combat system plays a risky gamble that I don’t feel quite works out in the game’s favour. Still, if you’re willing to look past the combat or if its particular eccentricities hit the spot for you, there is a lot to love here.
Lost in Random is available from the Xbox Store right now – with Smart Delivery in tow