Lost in Random is the latest EA Originals game to release and comes to us from developer Zoink. As our resident deck-building genre fanatic, I was interested in how the game showcased how you would build a deck of cards to help turn the tide of battle in your favor. Mixing this mechanic into a 3rd person action (not actually) platformer was a fresh take that had me excited. In practice, though I found things to fall a bit flat. Allow me to explain why.
Random Doesn’t Rule
This is a tale of a world where evil has seemingly won. The story centers around two sisters, Even and Odd. At the 12th birthday for children, the malevolent Queen comes to visit and rolls her die. Depending on where it lands the child is taken and forced to live in one of six separate cities. Your sister believes she’s rolled a one, and you’re happy as that means she gets to stay home! Suddenly the dice flips over to six, and she’s taken away by the Queen.
Your journey to find her takes you across varied landscapes as you meet a wide variety of interesting characters. Thankfully the story of this game carried me through, as it was well-written, and featured superb voice acting. I enjoyed the interplay between my character and Dicey, the magically powered and forbidden dice that I befriended early on. In this land rolling a die leads one to the Dice Dimension in which time stops. This is the period in time where you can choose the cards you want to play and it’s a great mechanic.
Graphically things are quirky in a Tim Burton-esque manner. Exaggerated features and odd anthropomorphized objects are everywhere. The environments have a nice variety to them, and the world feels lived in. Things can be a bit sparse NPC-wise at times, but as you progress to the fancier areas of the world the tonal shift is noticeable and welcome. Animations vary between great and stiff as a board, though I’d say they trend to the former far more often than the latter. It is a beautiful game, and a world I loved being a part of. Not everything is great, though.
My main issue with the game is not the card system, but the actual combat and complete lack of any real platforming. Everything you do in this game, at least on controller, feels off. Player movement is slow, aiming with any ranged weapon has far too much acceleration, and swinging melee weapons has an annoying amount of input lag. Let us start with just how combat works.
At the start of the game you play a segment where you’re fully powered up and ready to kick some butt, this is a nice primer for how combat will (eventually) work. You use your ranged attack to knock crystals off your foes, these crystals fill up a meter which hands you up to 5 cards from your up to 15 card deck. Once you have a full hand you then roll your die and get a number between 1 and (eventually) 6. This number dictates how much energy you have to play the cards in your deck, which each have a power cost of their own. Cards range from Attacks to defense, hazards, and cheats. It’s a fun system and building a deck became the second biggest draw of the game for me (the first being the story). You can either earn cards through quests, story progression or by buying them from a sentient wardrobe with an in-game currency you earn from quests. As far as actual gameplay goes, this was my favorite part of Lost in Random by far.
The main issue is just how slow the melee is. I eventually got used to how ranged aiming works, but any melee weapon felt terrible to use, and it wasn’t until the later part of the game where I could have incredibly overpowered combinations that I ever got through a fight in less than 10 minutes. Things drag on, and I eventually began to dread combat from roughly an hour in until the 8 or 9-hour mark when I was far more powerful. There is a dodge which is key to everything, as you’ll die quickly if you’re hit too often. A generous window is provided for the dodge where it will turn into a teleport, which can also be buffed up by specific card usage. If the melee felt faster and more responsive, and the ranged felt tighter I think the system would be great. As is, I found it completely wanting for the majority of my playtime.
Another issue is the complete lack of actual platforming in the game. There is none of it. It simply doesn’t does have any. You press buttons to use ladders, you cannot jump, there is a run button but it isn’t used in puzzles. It’s disappointing and seems like such an odd omission. The only real gameplay here is combat.
A Saving Throw from the Story and Soundtrack
The story though kept my attention the whole way through. It’s not brilliant or unique but it’s clever and set in a world I grew to really enjoy. There is a mix of humor and seriousness that can be tough to pull off. Quite often the humor part is where games fail, but this one got quite a few smiles out of me. Sound-wise things are excellent in all respects except one. The main protagonist does not talk the majority of the time you’re choosing through dialogue options. I wonder if it was a choice of not having players sit through them speaking out every line, but it was a bit jarring when my character would talk constantly in cutscenes but then clam up completely despite having long and varied conversations with full-on dialogue options for 5 or 10 minutes at a time.
Polish wise I had no real bugs and only a few instances of graphical pop-in. Things ran well and the overall image quality was excellent on my Xbox Series X.
This is a game that came close to greatness for me, but in the end the combat held it back. I still quite enjoyed my time with it thanks to the story, and I am very interested to see what developer Zoink is working on next. As it is not a full-priced title I think it’s worth taking a chance on if what you’ve seen here sounds interesting to you.