You’ve never played anything quite like Lost in Random. Now look, don’t get carried away by that statement, because I don’t want you thinking it’s some revolutionary experience, as such, only that there are elements within this game that I’ve never seen before.
So let’s start with the most exciting aspect: combat. Upon first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a fairly standard action-adventure game with some hack ‘n’ slash elements, albeit one with a gorgeous art style. But no, while there are elements from games you’ve played before, the key component here is the titular “random” nature, and the fact you meet a friend early on who is an actual dice that rides on your back and gives you powers.
Confused? Yeah, I don’t blame you. After sitting through a presentation for the game, I still didn’t feel as though I had a handle on what was actually going on. But after playing it, I’m hooked on the world and its art, and that unique combat. Truth be told, this game could really use a demo for people to get the feel of the battles.
It’s sort of turn-based but also real-time and… I’m not helping the confusion, am I? Let’s break this down, then. Playing as “Even” you only have a slingshot, which you can fire at glowing blue spots on your foes to make them drop energy. Your pal “Dicey” picks up this energy and stores it until you have enough to roll him. When you roll Dicey, you’ll get a random number from 1 to 6 (since it’s a dice roll) which will give you that 1 to 6 in usable “mana” form. As you progress you also collect cards and these have a mana value. When you have rolled the dice, time freezes so you can pick the cards you want to play.
These cards might give you a sword, or a bow and arrow, or even a bomb you can place then shoot to detonate. This frozen time allows you to plan, and is where the “turn-based” part comes in. Once you’re done spending your mana, you can attack or hit a button to come back into real-time, and continue the fight using the cards you’ve summoned into existence. Each battle will allow you to roll multiple times, creating an exciting, dynamic, and random experience. You can buy more cards as you play through the game, and it really does seem like your loadout will matter.
It’s fascinating, speaking to the creators of Lost in Random, Zoink. The developer has made titles like Stick it to the Man, Zombie Vikings, or even their first foray into the world of EA Originals with Fe, and these were always good games, but Lost in Random feels on a different level, certainly scale wise, anyway. “Suddenly we had this kind of budget to make this kind of game”, says Olov Redmalm, Game Director & Lead Writer, and laughing, Klaus Lyngeled, CEO and creative director, says “It’s about money!”.
“But it’s been a long time coming to make something like this”, explains Redmalm, “that’s inspired by stop motion animation stuff we’ve been looking at since we were kids”. And EA plays a part in this, of course, but the previous two EA Originals games so far this year were It Takes Two and Knockout City, which are in fact two of my favourite games this year. Are Zoink planning to go for the hat-trick? “When we finished with Fe, we instantly started on this project, and wanted to do it with EA because we felt they were a good partner”, explains Lyngeled, “it was really fun to work with them: I know people find that surprising sometimes, but they’re actually great”.
And Zoink is the third developer now I’ve heard say this. Josef Fares’ Hazelight Studio said this before It Takes Two launched, and Knockout City’s Velan Studios concurred. It begs the question: are EA actually now good? “I only work with the EA Originals guys which is a pretty small team with producers that we’ve known for many years now, who are like friends with us, so it’s been great that way”, says Lyngeled, “and it’s about proving yourself. First we did a game that’s this big, but can we do this then?”.
Lyngeled continues:“Doing indie games is tough, because there are so many games out there, and it’s about doing something that breaks through the noise of all these millions of indie games. If you can go out there, it’s a skill to handle a team this size and make a project that’s good, but it is hard to make a big production. How do you get it done the right way? So many different platforms we’re doing this for”.
And EA helps with this from a marketing perspective of course, as Lyngeled explains: “It’s kind of like being pre-approved if you’re part of that EA Originals program. It’s like ‘oh you’re probably not totally shit, so maybe we’ll look at this game’, you know?”. And Redmalm agrees, “It’s great that they give the platform to show off these indie games. Maybe because it’s on a bigger scale other developers might catch on and think maybe they should make a game about dice or a great co-op game”.
But with Lost in Random, the visuals are going to be the first thing that draws you in. Whether it’s on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, or even Switch, it’s a good looking game. Redmalm says “We’re super proud of how it runs on Switch”. It’s all been done in-house, even the artist has been methodically looking at each pixel of that version, tweaking it until he felt it was good enough.
Lyngeled explains this, adding “It’s been very hard. From PS5 to Switch is a huge difference”. This felt like an opportunity to ask a developer about the fabled Switch Pro and whether Zoink would like to see it come to life. Lyngeled jokes “Well we have the Steam Deck now, which I imagine we will support after a while”, though he also concedes he’s not sure if that’s definitely happening or not as of right now. Redmalm adds: “With working on the Switch, technical limitations mean interesting things can come out of it, too. Even though we started off building our game for high-end PC, and our lead environment artists brought a lot of experience from working on our PSVR game to Lost in Random, for optimising the game”.
Comparisons will be drawn to the likes of Tim Burton due to the dark but appealing art style, but the team aren’t shy of admitting they love Burton’s work. “It’s familiar, but not in video games”, explains Redmalm, “and it’s something we want to push and move more into. I would like to see other studios exploring this handcrafted look. Just because they have the budget to make this really hyper realistic looking game, do they have to again?”
It does seem like this could be the beginning of something, too. Lyngeled teases “To be honest, it’s like we just opened the box and there’s a lot more we could do with this design and even go further. It’s something we’re hoping we can do, whether that’s DLC or more games, but there’s a lot we think can be explored here, for sure”. Redmalm cheekily adds “We have a big box labelled save it for the sequel”, laughing, before adding “it’s the first time we feel we have this epic scale for a story that begs to be explored even further”.
And that’s kind of a big deal, because as a studio, Zoink is a team that creates something unique, and moves onto the next one. Even thinking about more games in a series says that they really believe in Lost in Random. It really does feel like a larger game than ever before from this studio, and one that it’ll be very interesting to see the reception for.
Given that the team says it’ll take between 10-12 hours to get through, it’s not going to outstay its welcome, but the combat is like nothing I’ve ever played before, and combined with the outstanding visuals and gorgeous soundtrack, the few hours I had with Lost in Random were tantalising to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, and the opening hour felt pretty slow before the combat was unveiled, but if it can focus on the exciting fresh ideas, it could be something very special indeed.