Art direction plays an important role in selling a fantastical digital world. That is, the sort of playspace you can run around in and take in the sights. Or, to be immersed in a tale featuring strange locales and even stranger folk. At a glance the fantastical look of Lost in Random carries with it an almost hand-made feel, with a firm foot planted in the claymation realm of something like The Nightmare Before Christmas. Its tale is similarly gothic, dark, and fairy tale-like in nature, albeit one with a scope and breadth that feels wholly original -- even though its pieces might not be.
There’s a definite dreamlike quality to playing Lost in Random, and experiencing its world. A place where people used to carry around dice, and the randomness of that drove each and every decision they made. Structurally simple, yet thematically complex. This idea of ‘Embracing randomness’ mixes elements of fate, chaos, structure, and even nihilism. On top of, you know, being a fun board-gamey premise.
With the six regions of Random matching the number of sides on a die, you take on the role of Even and her companion Dicey in a quest to save her sister from the evil Queen. It’s the sort of framework that’s easy to grasp, and one that plays into a lengthy and rewarding tale. An adventure that sees Even travel from the lowliest slum-like villages of Onecroft all the way to the shining beacon in the sky that is Sixtopia.
There’s a definite dreamlike quality to playing Lost in Random, and experiencing its world. A place where people used to carry around dice, and the randomness of that drove each and every decision they made. Structurally simple, yet thematically complex.
Again, there’s definite familiarity here, some on the nose naming, but it's this structure that allows the world and characters you encounter to surprise and even frighten. Like a kids film from the 1980s, Lost in Random doesn’t shy away from shining a light on real and imaginary fears. There’s the quintessential boogey man or Shadowman found in Threedom, a ghastly figure that looks to Even to help end a war between three siblings who lost their father -- the King. With the war in place, people are rightfully focused on real-world horrors and strife, as opposed to things that may or may not lurk in the shadows.
Of course in the world of Random, the real and the imaginary coalesce and the tale involving the Shadowman is one of both unrestrained terror and logic. As is the one involving a town split in two, with one having the air of a twisted reflection. That war between siblings? Well, with the Queen in possession of the last remaining die (outside of Even’s new pal Dicey) each day she rolls to determine which large hulking robotic creation will strike a blow to the opposing two. Because here there are trenches, battlefields, and giant autonomous robots engaged in endless conflict. It’s very cool.
Like a kids film from the 1980s, Lost in Random doesn’t shy away from shining a light on real and imaginary fears.
To say anymore about specific story elements or to break down each region you encounter would be spoiler-ish, whilst also doubling as me sitting here laying out the many great narrative beats you’ll encounter. A narrative that also uses the idea of the narrator to great effect, going beyond simply breaking the fourth-wall.
It’s worth highlighting and focusing on this side of the experience because the story is Lost in Random’s strongest element. In terms of how it plays, Lost in Random isn’t a platformer, nor is it an action-adventure. It sits somewhere between a traditional adventure game and a third-person action thing. With the latter providing a sense of originality (and familiarity) which we’ll get to in a moment.
Exploration is as simple as walking around and talking to those you meet, in a hub-like point-and-click fashion -- albeit in impressive 3D. In Two-Town, a striking locale where personalities are split in two, and the town itself also split in two, discovering its history and the stories of its citizens is one that happens through conversation and sight-seeing. It’s fascinating and engaging even though there aren’t many puzzles to solve, platforms to traverse, or collectibles to find.
That might sound like a non-game, or interactive movie, but it's commendable in ensuring Lost in Random’s elements make sense within its world. You do get to shape how Even responds, not exactly altering the story but adding a little of your own personality to hers.
This sense of place carries over to the interesting and frequent bouts of dice-based combat. All of the action in Lost in Random involves rolling the dice (Dicey) and using that value to play a randomly assigned card that could be a specific weapon, sentry-like device, trap, or even healing potion. And with an ethereal sword or bow in hand you can strike a blow against one of the Queen’s robotic foes inside a third-person arena in real-time.
Like the story there is a lot more to it, from building decks to being rewarded with new cards to coming up with a specific strategy that might work in one scenario versus another. There’s the element of randomness, where not getting the right card could result in dying and having to start again. And then there’s the board-game element where, in the world of Random, life-sized board games serve as very real battlefields. It’s all interesting and engaging though the pacing is somewhat slow, to the point where the longer and more protracted battles can impede the story.
Exploration is as simple as walking around and talking to those you meet, in a hub-like point-and-click fashion... it’s fascinating and engaging even though there aren’t many puzzles to solve, platforms to traverse, or collectibles to find.
Also, having to shoot crystals to power up your deck does require a lot of twitch-style accuracy which can begin to feel repetitive. Thankfully there’s a ‘Story Mode’ difficulty for those that might struggle with the combat.
Interesting combat aside, what resonates and exhilarates about Lost in Random is its story first and foremost. The adventure that Even embarks on is one to savour and one that lives up to the wonderful art direction and visual design. The characters, the dialogue, the discoveries, the animation, the voice acting, the music, the presentation -- it all comes together wonderfully. A game well worth taking a chance and rolling the dice on.
What we liked
A handmade look and feel that is as inviting as it is dark and gohtic
Wonderful story, setting, and characters
Combat is a unique mix of dice-rolling, cards, and real-time action
What we didn't like
Environments lack much in the way of interaction
Some battles drag on in the later portions of the adventure