In a world where your place in society is dictated by the mere roll of the dice, and the place you called home could be cruelly ripped from your grasp before your adolescence, Lost in Random starts weaving its tale in a town called OneCroft, a destitute town right at the very bottom of the social pecking order.
At the tender age of twelve, each child across the Queendom is given the opportunity to find their true standing in society. Two sisters, Even and Odd, are torn apart when their roll of the dice leaves Even in the destitute town of OneCroft and Odd immediately swept away to live in the Queen’s realm without so much as a goodbye to her family.
So, we join Even as she plays out a misshapen fairy tale, questing across a dark realm with naught but a magical talking dice for company.
Whilst the story plays out with eccentric, Burton-esque characters and narration to boot, the music is also reminiscent of that of Danny Elfman. Beautifully composed and crafted by The Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra, each piece is perfectly arranged to evoke whimsy and intrigue whilst drawing you deeper into the world of Random. If you loved the style and atmosphere of games like American McGee’s Alice, Lost In Random will feel like the natural evolution of that. The phrase “Burton-esque” is perhaps a little reductive sometimes.
We tend to just boil anything that looks slightly quirky and gloomy into that category, and it doesn’t really do things justice. After all, most people’s frame of reference for that is The Nightmare Before Christmas, and that wasn’t even directed by Tim Burton. Yes, Lost In Random has some familiar elements to its visual design, but it does put a lot of work into forging its own world, too. It’s not just cashing in on the 90’s goth crowd nostalgia.
You’ll be exploring Random and progressing through each tier of the fortune-based society on Even’s quest, which gives the game ample opportunity to showcase the creativity behind it. There are sidequests to pursue should you wish to flesh out even more of the world around you, but these are generally of little consequence or interest. They can just feel like sidequests for sidequest’s sake, rather than genuine extensions of the world and its characters.
It’s a solid adventure for the most part, but I feel like the biggest selling point is probably that gothic fairy-tale art style, and once that novelty starts to wear off it’s possible you’ll lose interest before you see the game’s ending. The same goes for the combat – it’s an interesting fusion of concepts, but sometimes it just doesn’t really stick the landing. There is some pretty hardcore talent behind the game’s story, penned by Ryan North of Squirrel Girl and Adventure Time comics fame, but that may not be enough to hold your attention by itself.
The combat is equally Lost in Random‘s best and worst feature. On one hand, combat is really innovative. Doing damage to monsters breaks off shards which power up a card deck mechanic. This can then be used to unleash your dice power manifesting giant swords, magical bow and arrows, damage deflecting shields and more. Which in itself is pretty cool. However, the throwing dice animation is needlessly slow and grinds the battle to an almost painful halt. Due to this, each fight takes at least twice the time you would expect it to and so you almost start dreading getting into battles as Lost in Random progresses.
These fights are pretty central to your progression through the game, and for them to feel so clunky and time-consuming is a massive wound to Lost in Random‘s momentum. You want to push forward, to see what’s next, but the game just drags to absurd degrees whenever it lurches into a fight. It’s probably one area where the game could have benefited from being a little less experimental, but major props to the developers for trying something new.
Lost in Random overall thoughts
Lost in Random won “Best Indie Game” at the 2021 Gamescom Awards, and it’s easy to see why. The line between indie and triple A development is getting finer and finer – and that gives brave titles like this a chance to shine. Is it the best game it could possibly be? Maybe not. But it does deliver a solid story alongside an art style we rarely see done so well.