Imagine stepping into an original D&D setting that’s been lovingly written and DM’d by Tim Burton or Shel Silverstein. Instead of elves and dwarves, you have a giant card shop that’s also a person, a decadent duke, and a scary-looking upside-down guy who only dreams of being able to rhyme – just to give a few examples. That’s the wildly creative premise of Lost in Random, a wholly original action-adventure game that thinks outside the box. Its combat wears thin, but exploring its worlds never does.
You play as Even – one of two twin sisters, Even and Odd – who are fated to roll the Queen’s mystical six-sided dice at age 12. The resulting roll determines which of the six worlds in the kingdom of Random they’ll spend the rest of their lives in. Long story short: Odd is sent off to the Queen’s world but Even isn’t willing to let her go without a chase.
The world-spanning adventure that ensues after you manage to escape the dreary starting zone of Onecroft, takes plenty of nods toward films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Coraline, and other similarly gothic-inspired stop-motion films. Despite the entirety of Random being drenched in dark hues of black and green and gray, each world still offers completely unique and decadently layered settings.
For example, Two-Town’s denizens feature two directly opposite personalities that can shift each time the Queen rolls her dice. This has resulted in the construction of a separate Two-Town, called the Upside-Downtown, which completely obscures the town’s skyline, kinda like that one scene out of Inception. It makes Two-Town feel that much more immense, and you can tease apart as much or as little of the zone’s background story as you’d like through side quests, or by speaking to the many interesting NPCs hanging around town before moving on.
Meanwhile, Threedom and its people are trapped in a perpetual state of war over a series of petty squabbles between the three outlandish Triplets. The other, equally otherworldly characters of the world react to them in weird and unexpected ways that keep you guessing.
For instance, you’re constantly told about Lost in Random’s appropriately named and visually terrifying Shadowman. You hear snippets about this terrifying monster that stalks the shadows and snatches lost children who wander too far from home, but when you finally meet him he’s frustrated that the war is too distracting and no one’s paying attention to him. This is just one of many ways that Random feels lived-in and richly detailed.
And these otherwise creepy characters are made lovable through the genius of Lost in Random’s writing. Incredibly memorable characters like Mannie Dex, Seemore, Herman, Ooma, The Nanny, and so many others make moving to the next world kind of like watching the next movie in a 20-hour series of timeless holiday classics.
Then there’s the semi-real-time combat, which as you probably guessed from the name, leans heavily on dice rolls and cards. It’s sort of like Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s combat system, but it’s a bit simpler once you get used to these very random rules. You start each battle with your trusty slingshot, which allows you to shoot crystals off of the faces and bodies of your foes. Once you’ve collected enough of them, a new card is added to your hand – up to a total of five cards.
The part that makes this interesting is the fact that each card in your hand is randomly pulled from your much larger deck – which lets you store up to 15 cards at a time, including duplicates if you want a few cards to show up more regularly than others – and you have no way of predicting which cards will appear when you roll your dice. Don’t worry if this sounds too weird, because most of the cards you can equip in your deck include the usual mix of swords, healing potions, and bombs. The real-time part of combat kicks in when you spawn a weapon and button-mash your foes to death or until your weapon breaks.
All of this “cards” business would shuffle Lost in Random’s real-time combat around and make it more appealing than the average button-masher if the enemy’s AI wasn’t so easy to outsmart with such minimal effort.
There are two issues here. The first issue is that you’re never prompted to select a difficulty level unless you go digging into the menus after already having spent some time playing. The other issue is that, on the default difficulty mode, each foe is packed with a lot of hit points, and a single battle might still take about 20 minutes or longer – simply because of how many of them will spawn before you’re finished. Regardless, each of these enemy types are pretty slow and predictable, and it’s easy to use any damage-dealing card to beat them down without thinking too hard.
It feels great for the first few battles, especially when you’re playing with interesting card combinations like Blacksmith’s Blink and Crystal Curse – the former giving you the ability to deal damage when you dodge roll your way through enemies, which causes crystals to break off of them, and the latter giving you the ability to deal damage each time you break those very same crystals – but the novelty does eventually wear off. Combat encounters end up appearing a bit too often, slowing down the pacing of the otherwise excellent story and dialogue sequences that make Lost in Random truly shine.
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