Developer: Zoink Games
Release Date: 09/10/2021
Also Available On
Video games that are considered moving art are rare and don’t happen as often as they used to. Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Journey, Monument Valley, Echochrome, and various games from large to the small budget would be among that crowd. Lost in Random takes visual and character design inspiration from the likes of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Alice: Madness Returns, and Psychonauts. Now, I don’t know if those are exact inspirations, but it sure does feel like it. I feel like I’m playing a Tim Burton cartoon.
You play as a girl named Even. The world-building in Lost in Random is very well done. By the end of the game, I completely understood this world and the horrible things people have to go through. There is an evil queen who rules a black die. When she rolls a die it determines where a child gets sent to. There are six realms in the world of Random. You, are, of course, starting out at the bottom and have to work your way up to Sixtopia where the evil queen resides. Children are used for something and the queen also takes your sister Odd back to Sixtopia with her. The people of Random used to have their own dice and the evil queen didn’t like this so she took them all away and only she can decide anyone’s fate.
Each realm is very well done. They all look different and each realm plays an important role in serving the queen. One realm makes the cards, one realm offers the garbage to create the evil robots, and so on. As you climb through the realms you meet the people and can do side quests which surprisingly aren’t that annoying. You mostly finish them all just by completing the main quests in each area and I rarely felt any made me go out of my way. Exploring is one of two major parts of the game and it’s quite enjoyable, in fact, I enjoyed it more than the combat which there is more of. I loved seeing the beautifully crafted areas, talking to the crazy NPCs, and learning how each realm is dealing with everyday life. This kind of detail isn’t put into games as much these days unless they’re a strict RPG.
As you explore the realms you can shoot down pots to earn coins to buy cards. Cards are used in combat, but it’s not like Hearthstone or anything like that. This is real-time combat with cards that give you what you need in the battle. You can carry a deck of 15 cards and there are around 30 or so in the game in total. You can carry usually 2-3 of each one in your inventory. The deck is varied and broken down into categories. Weapons, traps, hazards, assists, and so on. The problem is that because the combat is in real-time it can drag on and take a while to get any battles over with. You start out with just you and your die. You only get to roll a one at the beginning and as you climb realms you get more sides. This is an issue because until you get at least four sides you can’t roll very high. You must run around the arena shooting crystals off of enemies to build up your hand. I find this whole process tedious and really dampens the combat a lot and nearly kills the fun. Once you gathered enough crystals you can roll your die and that determines the spending points you get. Each card has a number from 0-3. The strategy is picking the right cards for the situation and making sure you have a varied deck. You don’t want to be caught without a melee weapon or health for example.
Once you play your hand you have to shoot crystals all over again or “blink” through enemy attacks. An important card is Blink Attack which damages enemies as you dodge because without a melee card you’re weaponless. This also drags out combat as I wish the slingshot would automatically do some damage. You’re stuck just running around shooting crystals and hoping a hazard or weapon card comes up so you can attack and do some damage. This also makes for cheap deaths, especially in the board game areas as there are no checkpoints there. Board games have various rules in which a game piece is moved around and your roll determines the moves. There are hazards, enemies, traps, and obstacles to overcome and I absolutely hated these. They dragged out the already dragged out combat and if you died towards the end it was another 20 minutes to fight your way back to the end.
As you can see, the combat has some great ideas like real-time combat mixed with card battling, but getting to that sweet spot is a chore. There is also so much combat in this game. Once you left a town you just went into one arena after another and it felt like it would never end. The only reprieve in combat was the boss fights as they changed things up. The same five enemies repeat throughout the entire game and then after a while, it just becomes a game of survival rather than strategy. You already know how to kill these enemies after the 50th time so the strategy is gone early in the game. I wound up just equipping the cards that did the most damage, dropped my spending requirements down, gave me more spending points, and required fewer crystals to get to the cards. I stuck with melee weapons, bombs, healing, blink attack, poison, and that was about it. Most other cards end up becoming useless as the game gets harder.
Overall, the game also overstays its welcome. The combat isn’t interesting enough to last 10 hours. As you battle your way through six worlds each with multiple bosses, quests, side quests, and cards to buy the game grows tiresome towards the end. I just wanted to explore the beautiful worlds and enjoy the scripted events towards the halfway point. Every time another board game came up or another arena I groaned. That’s not a good thing. I liked the mix of combat types, but getting to that point with the crystal shooting is just such a chore and slows the whole game down. What’s here though is a wonderful story, great characters, fantastic voice acting, and a beautiful world to explore.