[REVIEW] Lost in Random – Playing its cards right

If you want a game to be quirky, you can leave it up to the Swedish people at Zoink to get the job done. With games like Stick it to The Man and Flipping Death, the studio has acquired quite a remarkable reputation. Lost in Random – Zoink’s latest creation – is no different in that area. With its Burtonesk ambiance, Lost in Random fits the bill of being a strange-looking action-adventure. But I’d be selling the game short if I left it at that because Lost in Random is so much more than that.

The guys and gals at Zoink are known for giving things a spin of their own. Take Zombie Vikings: Stab-a-thon for example. There are few studios brave enough to pull off shit like that, let alone studios working for huge AAA publishers. Still, Zoink decided to roll the dice and dive headfirst into Lost in Random, a story-driven action-adventure with a twist. And it’s this twist that gives the game its charm, and it’ll even make you forgive them for dropping the ball here and there.

Lost in Radom tells the story of Even, a little girl living in a shithole called Onecraft. Onecraft is literally the landfill of a realm named Random, which is ruled by the mighty Queen and managed by her lieutenant Nanny Fortuna. One of Random’s rules states that a kid gets to throw a die on its twelfth birthday. If the kid gets lucky and throws a six, a lavish life in royal Sixtopia awaits. If the die shows a one, you’ll spend the rest of your life as a miserable Oner.

Even’s sister Odd is one of those kids who gets to roll the die. After rolling a dubious six, the two sisters get separated, hardly giving them time to say their goodbyes. But Even just feels something’s not right and heads out on a quest to get Odd back. Leaving on a hunch and some weird spiritual guidance, Even must traverse through Two-Town, the war-torn town of Threedom, and Vegas-styled Fourburg to eventually make it to Sixtopia. But she’d be a fool to take on this quest alone. Luckily, help comes from an adorable die, which she names Dicey. From that point on, Even is a Dice Wielder, a profession banned by the Queen herself.

It’s this quirky yet cute die (or dice, as everyone keeps calling it in-game) that changes everything. As I said before, Lost in Random is far from standard. Dicey’s abilities are the true innovation here. Instead of going for the straightforward approach where you just smack adversaries to their demise, Lost in Random leaves it to chance. During combat sequences, throwing Dicey determines your possibilities. Even comes equipped with battle trading cards that can be used to attack or defend, each with their own ‘price’. Throw a high number and you’ll be able to string a few abilities together. Throw a low number or get dealt a bad hand, and you’ll have to scramble to get a new opportunity to strike again.

These tactical gameplay mechanics are innovative – to say the least – but they can also become quite of a chore. People looking for another game in which they can hack their way through enemies will likely be disappointed. Instead, Lost in Random leans heavily on this card battle mechanic, without taking it to the level of other deck building games. Still, the pacing is relatively slow when it comes to pure combat. That doesn’t mean that Lost in Random is a drag, because it’ll definitely keep you busy. In order to ‘feed’ Dicey so you can roll him, Even needs to shoot crystals off of enemies. And that – boys and girls – will have you running and dodging all over the joint. Especially in the beginning hours – when Dicey is limited to rolling one or two – you’ll be doing a lot of slingshooting to get your next hand of cards dealt.

And that might get tedious at some point. I personally felt that ‘defeating a handful of enemies’ felt bloated after constantly repeating this cycle. Where a conventional action-adventure would have you make mincemeat of them in mere seconds, Lost in Random takes its time with it. But honestly, once you get invested in the story and the splendiferous graphic design, you’ll happily accept it. If you’re a big fan of Tim Burton, you’ll definitely feel right at ease with Random and its ‘random’ citizens. Just be ready for a lot of dialogue and a plethora of corny oneliners.

To make sure even the entire dice rolling doesn’t become a bore, Zoink took the mechanic one step further by utilizing it in a giant in-game board game. With every roll, a pawn gets moved on this board, which you have to get to the end. Special rules apply to these sections of gameplay, making it more than simply a different version of a horde mode. Honestly, these encounters are an absolute joy and – thanks to its twist – make regular combat feel boring in comparison. You would almost wish you would get to play more of them.

But in the end, Lost in Random is all about its great, yet slightly unnerving narrative. You’ll notice that – once you get into it – Even’s story has the ability to suck you in and keep you there for hours on end. And to be honest, Lost in Random really needs that to keep you invested. Given that the combat can become tedious and controls might feel dodgy sometimes, the story acts as a lifesaver. It’ll even mask the fact that a lot of the gameplay and exploration is rather repetitive and one-dimensional.

But if you decide to roll the dice and commit to Lost in Random, Zoink will treat you right for several hours. And let’s face it, we should all praise Zoink for thinking outside of the box. Interacting with weird creatures and dealing with a card merchant who’s literally a bookcase on legs… it’s all part of that Random experience that we just don’t see that often. Just remember that Lost in Random takes things one die at a time, and you can’t go wrong.

A quirky High Roller
The Aces
The Tim Burtonesk vibe of Random and its weird citizens is absolutely stunning
There's a great, yet unnerving story to be unraveled
The Giant Board Game section shake things up a little
You can buy cards from a walking bookcase called Mannie Dex
The Deuces
The combat routine can become tedious
Quests and exploration are actually quite one-dimensional
The controls are a bit finicky