Electronic Arts doesn’t support Nintendo Switch as much as it could be, but it does offer the console some sporty titles and EA Originals, the most recent of which is Zoink’s dark fairy tale action game, Lost in Random. And let’s just cut to the chase with this review: Lost in Random is a delight. It’s original, funny, and heartwarming, and it’s typically a good time all around. Mostly all that gets in the way is the underpowered Nintendo Switch hardware.
A magical world that is a bit less magical on Switch
As we previously discussed in our preview of the game, Lost in Random occurs in the world of Random, which is ruled by a malevolent queen. It is divided into six lands: Onecroft, Two-Town, Threedom, Fourburg, Fivetropolis, and Sixtopia. The number often relates back to the land in some way, as Onecroft is full of society’s lowly grunt workers, Two-Town is full of people with two personalities that manifest in many different ways, and Threedom is embroiled in war between three royal siblings.
As such, each area has a distinct look and does something different with the narrative, and while some areas are inherently more interesting than others, the game does a good job of pacing the adventure. A handful of sidequests round things out if you choose to complete them. Although, the game doesn’t allow backtracking, and I accidentally left Two-Town with a ton of sidequests unfinished there.
You play as Even, a girl who has a weird dream one year after a roll of the dice caused her sister to be taken away to live with the queen in the paradise-like Sixtopia. The dream leads Even to believe her sister is in danger, causing her to run away from home in the middle of the night. She thus embarks on an adventure across the world of random to rescue her sister, and a mysterious ghost guides her from place to place.
Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics fame wrote most of the dialogue in Lost in Random, and as a result, the writing is clever, surprising, and often pretty funny. The voice acting is fantastic as well. Even the self-aware Narrator that describes Even’s entire journey gets random fun zingers. That great imagination keeps you engaged in the world and in the overall adventure and makes it easy to like or hate the characters. Likewise, the character designs themselves are often equally imaginative and bizarre, making them even more memorable.
The character and world design takes heavy inspiration from The Nightmare Before Christmas — and to excellent effect. The game looked absolutely beautiful when I previewed it on my PC, which might be comparable to an Xbox One X in power. However, Lost in Random loses that sense of awe with its visuals on Nintendo Switch. Some of the environmental textures are still quite nice, and several of the character models still look pretty good. But the lighting is much simpler, and basically everything that is far away from you lacks detail. The result is that backgrounds sometimes just become assortments of large, vague, dark shapes, and it lacks magic. Threedom in particular honestly looks awful in its “battlefield” areas, the screen becoming bizarrely muddy and faded to the point that it’s almost hard to see sometimes.
Additionally, when playing handheld, the text is kind of tiny, and you can’t increase the size. The cards you use in combat also look weirdly fuzzy handheld, which doesn’t affect gameplay at all but just doesn’t look good. The frame rate seemed to hold together pretty well though.
Combat is unique and fun, once you can do some high rolls
Combat in Lost in Random is fairly straightforward in practice but complicated to explain in text. If you want a thorough explanation of how it works, refer back to our preview. But in a nutshell, you need to collect gems off of enemies’ bodies, either by shooting them off or deftly dodging enemy attacks. Once you’ve collected enough gems, you can roll your sentient die, Dicey, which then allows you to play cards randomly selected from your deck of 15 cards. The better the number you roll, the more cards you will be able to play.
There are straightforward attack cards, like a sword, lance, bow and arrow, and hammer. (The hammer is the best weapon by far.) There are hazard cards like bombs, a big hand that smacks things, creatures that shoot projectiles for you, a clock that stops time for enemies in a given space (extremely useful), and an object that stays in place for 30 seconds and lets out an explosion every time you shoot it. There are simple defense cards like healing potions or a card that can absorb a hit for you. And there are cards that can basically make it easier to play even more cards.
Sometimes you will obtain new cards by just playing the game, but you will buy most of your cards from sentient piece of furniture Mannie Dex. You can collect currency from shooting and breaking glowing pots hidden all over the environment, and it’s weirdly fun hunting for these things everywhere.
Zoink hopes that players will combine cards in clever ways to create all sorts of combos, but in the early areas of Lost in Random, you can’t roll a number higher than 2. That really restricts your options. Fortunately, your options open up a lot after that. Lost in Random contains 34 cards in total, which isn’t a lot but is enough to fill out the adventure. One playthrough can last anywhere between 10 and 20 hours depending on how thorough, inquisitive, or just slow you are.
To encourage players not to just whack their way to victory with a weapon in every fight, Zoink introduces several different enemy types, including late-game enemies that hurt you if you strike them with a melee weapon. Nonetheless, I stuck with a few favorite strategies and simple combos for basically my whole playthrough. However, it didn’t bother me because I enjoyed the fighting. It’s ultimately pretty fun and novel, and it’s fertile soil for a bigger, better sequel, if Zoink were to pursue that option.
With rare exception, the boss fights are pretty similar to standard battles in that they are still fights against mobs, except there’s a boss with more health and attacks to handle. However, Lost in Random is pretty forgiving about damage (though collision detection can be a bit weird sometimes). As long as you keep a couple potions in your deck, the challenge should never become overwhelming. If you do need extra help though, you can shift to an easier “story” difficulty whenever you’d like.
The one way Lost in Random tries to make battle more dynamic is with occasional “board game” challenges, where your dice rolls have the added effect of moving a game piece around a giant game board. There are different stipulations to winning these board games (and mobs of enemies will be swarming you as usual all the while), but most of them frankly feel superfluous and half-baked. There’s a kernel of a good idea here, but I only actually enjoyed two of them. But again, it’s a great place for a potential sequel to improve.
Lost in Random is fun, plain and simple
Ultimately, Lost in Random succeeds at telling a modern coming-of-age dark fairy tale that can be enjoyed by players of almost all ages, and the character and world design perfectly complements the zany and clever writing and voice acting. The gameplay is likewise unique and engaging, and even though combat doesn’t offer extreme depth or challenge, it fits the scope of the adventure. However, the graphics and lighting suffer on Nintendo Switch, and if you have the ability to play it on another platform, you probably should.
A Nintendo Switch review code for Lost in Random was provided by the publisher.