Lost In Random

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Zoink Games
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2021

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PS5 Review - 'Lost in Random'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 14, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Lost In Random brings a new spin on the fantasy action adventure genre, in a blend of strategy and action that explores the notion of chance and possibility, set within a beautifully dark and vivid world.

Buy Lost in Random

Lost in Random is a curious little action-adventure that came out of nowhere. Part of the EA Originals lineup that also published It Takes Two earlier this year, the title didn't see a ton of marketing up to its release, so it was easy to miss in the crowded month of September.

That is an absolute shame.

Lost in Random combines properties of a fantastical Tim Burton Claymation movie and a story-driven action-adventure with several fresh mechanics. The result is nothing short of entertaining, but it often comes at the expense of depth and pacing.

Random is a world ruled by the dice. Once populated by many magical dice and their dice wielders, nowadays only the queen and her dice are left to rule Random with an iron grip. Every person's fate is decided by a dice roll on their 12th birthday, assigning them to one of six towns ranging from Onecroft to Sixtopia, each with a distinct flair and use in the context of Random.

Players take on the role of a little girl named Even. When her sister, Odd, is sent to Sixtopia on her 12th birthday, she ventures out to bring her sister back home. On her way, Even discovers a long-lost magical die, Dicey, and a pack of cards to aid her quest, which eventually leads her through every town between Onecroft and Sixtopia.

The characters, presentation and story are the highlights of the game. Its Claymation-style presentation not only reminds of an interactive Tim Burton movie, but its story and characters also easily fit that mold. While somewhat similar in style, each town has distinct characteristics and ideas, and each features characters only found within that level. Almost every area tells a self-contained story that Even must resolve if she wants to progress in the adventure. Two-Town, for example, features characters with split personalities, whereas Threedom suffers under the rule of three siblings at war over their father's murder. As far as heartwarmingly creepy fables go, Lost in Random does an excellent job of creating a world with a range of characters and stories, and it's wholly entertaining from start to finish.

Lost in Random features a semi-open world with linear progression. Each district has an open map that Even can mostly traverse freely. Each town is full of different characters that go about their day-to-day lives, and a decent swath has unique voiced dialogue options to help the world feel alive. Unfortunately, the presentation of encounters with NPCs isn't always excellent since many interactions are unscripted. That means you'll often interact with characters that are randomly moving their mouths and appendages, out of sync with what is currently happening. It's a corner that likely had to be cut given the scope of the project, but it would've sold the world to have facial expressions match the spoken dialogue. There's some repetition in the assets and character models across the realms, but since important characters are always unique, it doesn't adversely impact the experience.

The world is fun to explore, but it also feels a bit stiff to traverse since not much of it is interactable. Even and Dicey can smash pots around the level and find magical dice doors for coin rewards. There's an inflated amount of them to be found, which weakens the incentive to explore, but I still checked every corner to slingshot a hidden pot from afar. Thankfully, there are many more incentives to look around more carefully. In addition to optional side-quests, each level has a hidden puzzle to solve and storybook pages to collect. Side-quests are hard to miss since they are marked on your map when found, and while you can choose to ignore them, they can grant a rare card or coins. Limited as it may be, it makes each town interesting to explore.

The meat of the interactive experience lies in the combat. It's also where Lost in Random can show a lot of interesting ideas, many of which feel undercooked. The two main props in combat are your dice and deck of cards. Even does not have a weapon by default, so she can't attack opponents unless she uses her dice and playing cards to grant a weapon. The essential loop is for Even to hit crystals from opponents with her slingshot, which lets her draw up to five cards from the deck. Once satisfied with your hand, you can throw dice. Based on the result, you can spend the points on playing cards, each with a number that indicates its cost to play. It essentially marries a dice game and a deck-building game with traditional third-person combat. Damage cards may provide a weapon to directly dish out damage for a certain period. Hazard cards can place bombs or other obstacles, and cheat cards create more interesting effects, such as slowing down time in a specific area.

As in many deck-building games, combat is the most fun when you have successfully curated a deck that matches your play style. For example, it's undeniably satisfying to trap several enemies in a slow-motion bubble, add an area effect that reduces their damage resistance, and then use a hammer card to take them out in a few swoops. However, none of the individual mechanics is very deep. The card selection is limited, and the most-used cards in my deck were unlocked at the start of the adventure. Cards that were unlocked later were noteworthy, but they didn't add depth or interesting ways to combine cards.

The same is true for actual combat when Even has a weapon to wield. She has a dodge, a light attack, and a heavy attack, so it's fun in short bursts, but it doesn't do as well as the game progresses. You receive more cards, and your dice are periodically upgraded, so you essentially have more points to attribute and more cards to play, but that is the extent of it.

Crucial battles in Lost in Random usually take place on a playing board. Whenever you roll, the playing piece moves along the track to its destination. Special events may be triggered based on where the piece lands, but otherwise, it's the same combat mechanics strapped to the concept of a board game.

Enemy variety is serviceable, and the occasional boss fight is a rare highlight, but it also repeats throughout the 10-hour adventure. My main gripe with combat is how long individual encounters can take. Some encounters can last up to 20 minutes without much variety, and that can feel like a chore. What's worse is that death always sends you to the beginning of the encounter, so it can be frustrating when you just spent 20 minutes with nothing to show for it. It feels like an attempt to pad the experience rather than anything else, and it severely hurts it. The last 2-3 hours of the campaign throw an increasing number of long encounters your way, and it stops being fun after a certain point. I probably would've viewed it differently if there were more depth in the deck-building portion, but things get too repetitive too quickly, and there's a decent chance of frustration if you have to repeat an encounter.

On the PS5, Lost in Random ran at a solid 60fps in all situations. I am not sure about its resolution, and the image sometimes appeared blurry during my playthrough, but that might be unrelated. The shadow quality is relatively low and can cause artifacts and flickering on character models, but given the dark atmosphere, these things usually blend in with the rest of the experience, which looks quite marvelous. Most of that seems to stem from great art design more than technical achievement, though.

The soundtrack and voice acting are also great contributors to the thoroughly impressive presentation, as they provide high-quality voice and sound work throughout the entire adventure. If it falters anywhere, it's in the menus. The static map screen is not interactive and won't show your current location, making it difficult to navigate the labyrinthine stages. While I wish the game would've leaned more heavily in deeper deck-building mechanics, I think the current card menu wouldn't have supported it. The screen to build your active deck can tough to navigate and even tougher to see which cards are currently in your deck. Overall, Lost in Random is a more than solid outing that does a lot more right than it does wrong.

Lost in Random is a magical experience in several areas. The story, presentation, and world are a joy to experience from start to finish, with a few minor exceptions. On the other hand, the combat is initially refreshing but is hindered by the length of encounters and a lack of depth in its mechanics, so later encounters feel like a frustrating chore. It's a fun action-adventure in short bursts, and Lost in Random deserves much more attention than it has received.

Score: 7.5/10

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