Leave nothing to chance this fall, get yourself over to the Queendom of Random and lose yourself in a truly magical, dreamlike, and exceptional journey with Zoink’s Lost in Random.
Lost in Random is one of the more unique games I have played in quite some time, with a novel concept and a wondrous world that has all the incredible hallmarks of a Miyazaki-esque dreamscape. Colourful characters both wonderful and nightmarish, a child protagonist whose innocence and pure heart always wins out, and a magical story that has plenty of hope and comfort to dish out to any fortunate enough to pass through it; Lost in Random is a truly special game and piece of art.
A Chaotic World of Chance
Lost in Random revolves all around one very simple idea: the randomness of a dice roll. Every part of the game’s design from its mechanics to its world and story stems from this in wonderful and often unique fashion.
For the world of Random the dice is king—or rather, queen. It informs every facet of life. This dystopia is segmented into 6 kingdoms, one for each side of a dice, and your residency in any kingdom is determined by which way the dice falls at childhood. Every child of Random must face the queen’s roll at their twelfth birthday, and however you roll will determine your classification as a citizen for the rest of your life. Imagine Brave New World if created by Studio Ghibli or Lewis Carroll and you’ve got how Random functions.
Lower rolls place you as a lower-class citizen, doomed to forever only facilitate the lives of those above you. 1’s live in squalor, taking only the scraps of those of the other kingdoms, while the 6’s are the elite of society, getting to live in the queen’s kingdom of Sixtopia.
Each of these kingdoms is also entirely unique in their own right and usually possess some sort of distinct quirk tied to their dice number. For example Twoburg and its citizens are all about doubles and mirroring. Every facet of life must have its double in Twoburg, including its citizens’ own personalities. Living in Twoburg has poisoned every resident with a compulsion for needing doubles everywhere; many residents have split personalities, or come as twins or, indeed, need everything to be in twos. Shops sell only things that come in pairs such as socks and shoes, the mayor of the town has a dark double building his own inverse Twoburg to mirror the first, and everything he does is spoken in rhyme since it hinges on a pair of linked words.
This is the kind of wonderful, in-depth thought that has gone into creating the world of Random, with every area possessing unique qualities that all come together to form this wholly imaginative dreamscape that is quite simply brilliant to experience. There is a genuine excitement to entering each kingdom and seeing how the simplicity of a dice number informs how the Zoink Games creative team have imagined it to be. As you move through it the world unravels itself around you, teaching you more and more of how it all functions, and whether the supposed chance of every dice roll is, in fact, ever truly random.
The art of Random is also wonderfully crafted. This is a world that is every bit a dream, with all manner of bizarre creations both structural and living spread throughout it. The imaginative breadth of some kingdoms are truly breathless, and it is always worth just exploring every twist and turn of Twoburg’s winding alleys or the sprawl of Threetopia’s trenches for their design alone. The inhabitants of each world too are all wonderfully designed. The likes of the Shadowman are the stuff of nightmares, while Twoburg’s mayor comes straight out of a Tim Burton animation, or the delightful Dicey from a Ghibli tale. Zoink claims to have poured their hearts into this project, and it is certainly evident at every point.
A Journey of Dreams and Nightmares
We enter into the chaotic world of Random through the naïve eyes of Even, a child of Onecroft approaching her twelfth birthday. Even’s world is shattered when her sister Odd is whisked away by the queen at her twelfth birthday to live in Sixtopia. While this is supposedly to be the highest honour one can get, it is clear from the dread that befalls both Odd, Even and the town of Onecroft that all may not be as it seems. The act of the “one true roll” itself is an apocalyptic one, with H.G Wells type mechanical beasts descending on the town in search of children while led by the wicked Nanny Fortuna, whose cackling presence makes it very clear that you don’t want to get caught here.
A year later Even finds herself with troubling premonitions of her sister needing help, and the appearance of a ghostly visage prompts the young girl to head out on a rescue quest. Knowing nothing but Onecroft, Even must make the jump to leave her home behind and learn to grow through a world hell-bent on swallowing her up entirely.
She won’t be lost in Random by herself however, as the chance encounter with an all-powerful living dice—aptly named Dicey—gives her both the companionship and the abilities to fend off the nightmares ahead. Together Even and Dicey must make their way up the tiers of each kingdom until they can finally get to Sixtopia to rescue Odd and put an ultimate end to the evil Queen’s wicked reign of terror over Random.
Even herself is a steadfast character, taking every part of this dream-like, nightmarish world in stride as she continues to battle on through setback after setback. Even as the Queen herself becomes focused tearing Even down her resilience always pulls through, while the purity of her heart also teaches and defeats many of the characters that she meets and faces along the way. Like that of a Chihiro from Spirited Away, Even’s naivety is out of place in this world, but it ends up being her greatest attribute as she wields it with great ability to shape her environment and peers around her into something altogether better.
This is part of the magic and genuine joy of Lost in Random as it offers up a hopeful message that things can be better. Most characters around Random tend to be crippled in one way or another by a particular anxiety, a tragedy, or a damaged part of their personality, and rather than accepting that this is just the way things are supposed to be, their encounters with Even help them to see a new path and change. Rather than being saddled with your lot in life, seeing no way to escape your environment as debilitating though it may seem, Lost in Random suggests that not all needs to be defined by or left up to chance.
The Mechanics of Chance
Like everything in Random, combat is left to the chaos of a dice roll. As far as combat mechanics go you don’t often get novelty like Lost in Random’s. For a game predicated on dice rolls it might have been easy to go the turn-based, dice roll route but instead Lost in Random keeps its action free-flowing while incorporating the randomness of dice rolling exceptionally well.
Throughout her adventure Even accrues ability cards that allow her to take offensive and defensive actions in combat. You can build your deck of 15 how you like it as you proceed through the game, allowing you to really mix up the ways you fight. As combat begins, Even is more or less defenceless. If she wants to get offensive then she’ll have to use her slingshot to chip away at crystals so that she can build up Dicey’s power. Once Dicey has a bit of power he can make a roll, and the number he lands on will determine how many action points Even has to play with. Your action points are then spent on your deck of cards – each of which has a point value determining how much they cost to use – to gain weapons and abilities. The higher your roll the better abilities you can take.
This is the combat cyclet. Abilities and weapons are limited by time and durability, so throughout the fight you will have to keep garnering crystals to keep rolling to stay competitive. It is a really unique way to approach combat and keeps every fight at the whim of random chance. The cards you pull at each roll are also random so there is every chance that a roll won’t give you quite what you need to fight effectively. This can sometimes leave you feeling quite scrappy and of course feeds in brilliantly to the theme of the world and game too.
I really enjoyed this style of combat and it is not something I have seen before, which is always nice. It is a lot of fun to tinker with different card combinations to create new combat opportunities, and players will really be able to carve out a style that works for them.
There is also the addition of board game scenarios too to add another strong mix to play. Board games are combat scenarios with a set of rules attached, and usually an objective as well. For example one board game forces you to make dice rolls to get your marker to the end of a game board. Every roll allows your play piece to move the number rolled, however some landing spots can also trigger certain events to either aid or trouble you more, so fights can get pretty difficult pretty quickly if chance is not on your side. These board game scenarios are used sparingly but exceptionally well, and there is just enough variation and ramp in complexity and difficulty from one to the next to keep the game’s loop trucking along well.
I will say, however, that the difficulty of combat did tend to be on the easier side (at least on normal difficulty) with later stages often not feeling quite appropriately dangerous enough, but other than that Lost in Random’s gameplay loop and combat mechanics are exceptionally brilliant.
High Rolls for Lost in Random
Lost in Random is a wonderful game. I have little but good things to say about its experience overall. It is unsurprising that Zoink and EA walked away from Gamescom this year with accolades aplenty, having been voted the Best Indie Game of the conference.
Do yourself a favour and get aboard this dream-ride now. It is both functionally fulfilling as well as being a wondrous, magical journey to boot. There is nothing random about the brilliance of Lost in Random, Zoink have succeeded in crafting a world that is just as heartful and impassioned as they had hoped, and its dreamy journey is one that I could dive into further and further if given the opportunity.
Final Score: 9/10