As its launch nears, Lost in Random is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing curios of the year in gaming. You may have already seen its cute-meets-gothic trailers, which draw to mind such iconic Tim Burton movies as The Nightmare Before Christmas.
But as RadioTimes.com learned during a recent preview event, there’s a lot more to love here than just the visuals. We played through the first three-and-a-bit hours of the Lost in Random story, and beyond the obvious – the quirky graphics, the rich musical score and the loveable companion character Dicey – what really stood out was the combat.
In a world where an evil queen uses the roll of a dice to decide the fate of her followers, the player takes control of a young girl called Even. Her sister, Odd, was dragged away by the queen and her henchmen some time ago, and now Even is setting out on a quest to try and get her lost sibling back.
It’s not long before Even meets Dicey, an ancient being that resembles a dice with arms and legs – teaming up with Dicey, Even begins to learn a long-forgotten style of combat. Now a ‘dice-wielder’, she’s able to pause time during combat scenarios and dish out a wide array of attacks.
As you progress through the game, Even and Dicey collect cards that add new attacks to their arsenal – some cards allow you to summon swords and other traditional weapons, while others have more off-the-wall ways to enhance your fighting skills.
You can only take a select number of cards into combat encounters with you, so there’s a bit of light deck-building to do if you want to ensure your most relevant skills are available in each bout. For example, some cards have specific actions that will help during board-game-inspired levels, but they’re not as handy in regular fights.
As well as being zany, this system does require careful thought and timing – you can’t just roll Dicey onto the battlefield whenever you want, as you need to collect crystals in each battle to charge Dicey up and activate your cards. (The crystals fall off of enemies when you shoot them in certain places.)
When you do throw Dicey down, that’s when time stops, and you’ll have as much time as you need to rummage through the available cards and decide what you want to do. As soon as you unleash an attack, time starts again. It’s a nice change of pace compared to a lot of other action games, and it’s easy to imagine players coming up with their own unique tactics and combinations.
In the handful of hours that we spent with the game, we had a lot of fun working with Dicey and choosing between cards in battle. And so, when we spoke to two of the game’s developers after the session, we were keen to ask whether they have any particular favourite cards.
Klaus Lyngeled, creative director at Zoink Games, told us exclusively: “I have cards that I think are really funny. Like there’s one card that you get where Dicey, actually, you apply it to him and he becomes explosive. But he wants to run to you all the time, and you have to send him away, which I think is kind of funny – don’t come to me! And he comes like, ‘Aaah! Come and hug me!’ I really like that one. Not that it’s always so useful, but it’s just funny, you know?”
Zoink’s other creative director, Olov Redmalm, who is serving as head writer on Lost in Random (and who also voiced Dicey), adds: “You know, we’re always trying to package things [differently], like even though some skills and abilities are familiar – or like, technically, they work not very differently from other action combat games.
“But like, for instance, you have this trap you place out, and if you shoot it, it kind off knocks off the crystals and stuns enemies. And that we kind of dressed up as this Sonic Bloob, which is just a little creature who hovers in the middle of the air, and when you shoot him with your slingshot, he screams very loud. So all the crystals shatter. And just, we’re always trying to push the weirdness of the skills, trying to make it at least packaged and dressed up as something other than a classic chain lighting or fireball.”
Lyngeled agrees, saying, “We try always to put some character into it.” Redmalm continues: “But speaking of that, I really like combining it – taking the Sonic Bloob, placing it out, maybe adding the 8 of Hate with it, which is a similar thing, but it just creates damage in your area of effect.
“And you’re just amassing these area-of-effect skills, and [you could] also apply the Crystal Curse, which says, if I shoot the 8 of Hate, it gives out a shockwave of damage with all the enemies around. And also, that unleashes the Sonic Bloob, so it shouts and all the crystals shatter and the enemies take damage from the crystals shattering – so we have this nice chain of effects.”
The possibilities are pretty deep, then, and you can even automate some of it. Lyngeled explains: “You could actually put a cannon there that shoots it automatically, so you don’t have to do it yourself. You can actually build this little mechanism of making everything work.”
It seems likely that players will have a lot of fun coming up with their own combinations of cards when Lost in Random launches later this month. But it’s not just about being tactical, either – there is a lot of humour to enjoy on the side. Things won’t always work the way you want, and Dicey running right at you when he’s about to explode is a prime example of that.
Redmalm tells us: “I’ve often mentioned Baldur’s Gate, even though it’s a very different game. It’s the same kind of chaos that can be very fun.” There’s an element of chance to the battles, too – every time you roll Dicey, the number he lands on will determine how many cards you can afford to dish out.
Unlike older games where you might have to reload a whole level if something goes wrong, the team at Zoink wanted these mid-battle wrinkles to be enjoyable. Redmalm says, “we wanted to make failing fun and still rewarding.
“It’s like, maybe you get blown away, but you damage some enemies [in the process] and you don’t take that much damage. You can still get up and fight. We wanted to capture that kind of fun chaos.” And based on what we’ve seen so far, we’d say they’ve succeeded!