With most games, we know what to expect from them. Most first-person shooters have the same control schemes, every third-person adventure game has similar parkour and climbing mechanics, Bioware will always include steamy romances. Lost in Random is different — after all, random is in the title. I didn’t know what to expect when traveling from Two Town to Threedom, or even from one roll of Dicey to the next, and this randomness is what made Zoink’s game really stand out. While I had a few gripes with the game, my overall experience with Lost in Random was one of joy, excitement, wonder, and, of course, randomness.
The protagonist Even has a simple goal: save Odd, her sister, from the clutches of the evil queen of Random. She runs away from home and accidentally finds herself in the Valley of Dice. Random used to be populated by dice wielders and their companion dice until the queen decided she was to be the only person to wield a dice. A war broke out and now dice in Random are no more, save for Dicey, the die Even randomly comes across. Together they journey through six different districts on their way towards finding Odd and hopefully saving her.
It’s a simple tale, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun or engaging one. Even meets many memorable characters on her journey, like Mannie Dex, the living cabinet who trades you cards in exchange for coin, and Neeshka, the forgetful bodyguard in Threedom. There are also dream sequences that give Even glimpses of Odd’s fate in Sixtropolis. I don’t want to give too much away, but I found the different paths the sisters go down to be quite interesting and I was certainly invested in their tales. There’s some great character work throughout and I was especially impressed with developments — and some surprises I wouldn’t dare spoil — in the late game as Even traveled closer to Sixopolis.
The world and aesthetic of Lost in Random are the game’s calling cards and worthy of all the praise they’ve received. The easy comparisons for the weird, cute, and sometimes gross-looking characters are the works of Tim Burton, but I also found the human characters to be very doll-like and they reminded me of the work of stop-motion studio Laika, creators of Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. There are giant fish-like people, talking fox-like creatures, and steampunk robots populating the world.
The NPCs essential to the game all have unique designs. The triplets of Threedom are all regal and royal in their own ways, the evil Royam of Two-Town is a frightening villain who bears a striking resemblance to Batman’s rogue Scarecrow, and the Shadowman is designed specifically to haunt children’s nightmares (and mine, possibly).
The world through which Even travels is also uniquely weird and gets weirder as the game goes on. Each of the six districts has a specific spin to them, such as Two-Town’s upside-down town in the sky, Threedom’s war-torn trenches (and giant robots fighting off to the distance!), and Fourburg’s circus-like arena. Lost in Random is an excellent example of how to bring new worlds to life in video games.
I only wish the quests and objectives in the game were just as unique. For most of the districts, the quests play out in the same manner almost every time. Even needs to either upgrade Dicey or obtain something to move on to the next place. To do, she gets sent on various fetch quests by NPCs who then aid her in moving on to the next city.
Almost every main and side quest is some variation on a fetch quest, which can get rather dull, whether you’re fetching eyes, ghost stories, or fabric for rugs. One quest that stood out for me is when the Shadowman sends you to broker peace and end the civil war in Threedom. I really like the idea of an evil creature wanting peace for selfish purposes — so people can be afraid of him again — but Even’s way of brokering peace is by fetching items the warring triplets of Threedom want so they can give her something in return, which Even can then give to Neeshka, a former royal bodyguard, to jog her memory and discover who murdered the old king. Great potential, but bland and repetitive execution.
Lost in Random’s combat was a real highlight of the game for me. You build a deck of 15 cards for Even (there are over 30 different types and dozens of individual cards to collect in total) to take into battle. Armed with only a slingshot, Even’s goal is to knock crystals off of robot enemies for Dicey to collect. The more crystals Dicey has, the more cards are drawn and Even can hold five. Her hand fills up rather quickly and I never found myself groaning that gathering crystals was taking too long. I noticed some cards with timed effects (30 seconds of poisoned weapons, for example) lasted through several rolls of Dicey, meaning when I was on a roll (get it?) with Even’s slingshot and collecting crystals, not needing to wait long to roll Dicey again.
Each card has a cost and whatever number Dicey rolls is how many points Even can use to spend on cards. Once Even gathers pips for Dicey to roll at least threes and fours, combat really opens up and you can explore different ways to deal damage to enemies, whether that’s with a lance, a rampaging 20-sided die, or a curse that causes damage when knocking crystals off enemies. Restriction breeds creativity, and a 15-card deck combined with random rolls really encourages experimentation in combat, making it never get stale.
The ‘random’ really shines in the combat. Even can only wield weapons if she draws a weapon card, can only heal if she draws an elixir card, etc. I distinctly remember one exhilarating boss fight where I was very low on health and went multiple rolls of Dicey without drawing any elixirs, upping the tension. Some players may scoff at lack of control, but I loved the randomness of combat and how it could make for challenging encounters, or make me feel like a boss when I drew a hand full of bombs and a card that turned my slingshot into a bow shooting explosive arrows.
There are also combat encounters centered around moving a piece around a board game. These encounters give a little bit of variety to the game and add a secondary goal to simply eliminating enemies, but I found them to be a bit half-baked. Whatever number Dicey rolls is how many spaces a piece moves along the board, and usually the objective is to get the piece to the end of its track. You as the player can really ignore everything about the board game piece and just focus on beating robots, collecting crystals, and rolling Dicey, essentially treating the board game like any other combat encounter. Sometimes the piece lands on a tile that produces a zone that slows downtime or a tile that summons bomb-carrying birds. These add a bit of randomness to the game, but ultimately I found they helped me a bit too much and made the fights seem easy at times.
I’m not a gamer who puts too much stock in a game’s visuals (story and gameplay reign supreme for me), but I will say Lost in Random is a tad unimpressive from a technical standpoint. Textures aren’t very refined at times, the same half dozen or so NPC models are recycled extremely often (to the point where I thought I spoke with Even’s father in Onecroft before realizing all the human males had the same model), and a persistent fog of sorts obscures so much of the field of view at times making it so the screen only shows Even, Dicey, and a wall of blue. The game did run very smoothly, however, and I never encountered any annoying bugs or glitches.
The game’s writing, though, was as impressive as it gets, with the dialogue consistently making me laugh throughout. The narrator had a wonderful personality and some genuinely funny lines. I greatly enjoyed his voiceovers. Other characters also have great jokes and uniques voices and personalities. I didn’t realize until after the game that Ryan North (The Unbelievable Squirrel Girl, Adventure Time comics) wrote the game’s dialogue, which goes a long way to explaining its humor.
Lost in Random is an easy game for me to recommend. It’s perfect for both gamers tired of the same ol’ innovation-less games and those who are searching for their next indie darling. It’s fun, humorous, unique, and beautifully weird with a 15-20 hour campaign that will leave you hoping for more adventures set in the world of Random.
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