The purpose of the EA Originals publishing label is to bring forth unique and memorable experiences from independent studios. Swedish developer Zoink Games has definitely fulfilled the brief with Lost in Random: a card-battling adventure game that feels like it’s stepped straight out of a Tim Burton claymation movie.
In the Kingdom of Random, once a child reaches the tender age of 12, the Queen makes them roll a die which determines which of the six realms they will spend the rest of their lives in. Each realm is named after the side of a die, from one to six, and each is supposedly grander than the last. There’s no free movement between the realms so once the die has been rolled the future of that child is forever fixed.
The game is very quick to reel you in with its gothic fantasy setting. Everything from the game’s lore to the puppet-like visuals feels like a delightfully dark fairy tale. This particular fairy tale is about two sisters: Even, the game’s protagonist, and Odd, her older sister. They have both grown up in a dreary town called Onecroft where the adults have to spend their days sorting through junk from the rest of the Kingdom.
When Odd’s birthday rolls around, she hits the jackpot and manages to get a six which means spending the rest of her life in Sixtopia. Sure, it’s supposed to be a paradise where she’ll get to hang out in the company of the Queen but Even is pretty sad about never getting to see her again. It doesn’t help when she starts to experience strange dreams which leads her to think that maybe Odd is not living a life of luxury. It’s not much of a surprise when Even grabs her slingshot and decides to set off on a quest to save her sister.
Of course, one small girl against all the mechanical armies of the Queen would not exactly be a fair fight. Thankfully Even makes friends with a magical die (called Dicey) and together you form quite the formidable duo. The combat system is one that sounds pretty complicated but once you learn to embrace its randomness it quickly becomes second nature.
You’ll need to gather energy in order to give Dicey a roll. Once he’s been thrown the action will pause while up to five random cards are drawn from your card deck. Each card has a point score attached to it, so let’s say that Dicey has rolled a 3, you’ll be able to set loose a ghost (2) which travels across the battlefield harming anyone in its way as well as summon a spectral sword (1) so that Even can slash away at enemies.
By mixing and matching different cards you can create some pretty devastating combos but it’s down to luck which cards are drawn. This means that if you pull a couple of bad hands in a row you can end up having to play defence for a while until you can roll again. Much of the fun is in building up your deck so that it complements your playstyle. Little changes to a deck can make a big difference to how a battle plays out. Once you start to work out which cards work well together the fights get really chaotic and exciting.
There are also a handful of battles which take place on giant game boards. Here you’ll need to move a giant chess piece forward by rolling Dicey. These add an interesting dynamic to battles as you aren’t just focusing on wiping out enemies but will also need to get the chess piece to land on specific squares in order to succeed.
Lost in Random is not all about fighting, though. While travelling through the six realms of Random you’ll also get the chance to help many people who have been impacted by the Queen’s sinister schemes. During some side-quests you’ll have to make a choice which influences its outcome. Sadly, it doesn’t always feel like it matters which option you pick.
Although some of the quests fall a little flat, there are plenty of intriguing characters to meet and they all help to flesh out the world thanks to a well written script. While Dicey doesn’t talk much, there’s quite a lovely little friendship that gets built up between them and they support each other even when things look bleak. It’s heart-warming to see their interactions, and all the voice acting performances are also really strong, which makes it easy to fall in love with this strange world and all its weird and wonderful inhabitants.
Lost in Random is set in a masterfully crafted world which tells a gothic fairy tale-like story that has plenty of warmth despite its dark hue. With beautiful writing and a touching story, it does a great job at making you really care about what happens to Even, as well as everyone she meets. It also has a truly unique battle system that offers loads of fun in your quest to create a perfect deck. This is a delight to play from beginning to end.