It’s interesting to me how the concept of RNG only really became a novelty in recent years. It’s been around forever, since it’s humble roots in Dungeons & Dragons; but only really became a household term with the explosion of the indie scene and the subsequent boom of the roguelite. It makes sense—game development is a really arduous process, and designing a game where a significant amount is decided by chance can help to alleviate a lot of the stress.
But rare is the game that actually does something interesting with the fundamental concept of randomness, which is precisely why Lost in Random caught my eye. While I was initially drawn in by its unique aesthetic and interesting mechanics, playing it felt very much thematically accurate—like several rolls of the dice, there are moments where it really shines, and others where it comes up short.
Lost in Random sets players in the world of Random—where humans and weird creatures alike are separated into six zones of various classes and social structure. Everything is decided by the Queen of Random, who rolls her Dark Dice to decide the day’s events, and more importantly, where children will live—summoned to throw the Dark Dice on their twelfth birthday to decide their stature in life.
Players take on the roll of Even, a young Oner—the lowest of the social hierarchy, obviously—whose sister Odd is taken away when she rolls the Dark Dice and is chosen to live as a Sixer. Months later, a mysterious, ghostly figure calls out to Even; and Even, believing the ghost to be connected to Odd, sets out on a journey to find her, only to be swept away into the Valley of the Dice where she meets a unique companion—a sentient dice who she names Dicey.
“It’s an incredibly unique story with a multitude of layers behind it.”
Paired with Dicey, Even gains the power to combat the Queen of Random and her armies of robot soldiers, and together, the two set off on a quest across Random to free Odd, and maybe the world from the Queen’s grip.
It’s an incredibly unique story with a multitude of layers behind it. Each town of Random is bursting with life and colours both the world and the story in unique ways—from the Two-Town where everyone has a split personality, or Threedom where the ruling triplets wage a never-ending war with giant robots. To further this, each town is filled with interesting and lovable characters, both good and bad and the writing is impeccable—both for the characters, and the in-game narrator who helps highlight the story, and gets comically self-aware at times.
Gameplay is equally as unique, albeit not always perfect. Each town faces its own dilemma that Even and Dicey must solve, as well as some side-quests here and there that add to a lot of the charm and personality of the game’s characters and writing. These quests are usually “fetch” in nature, but occasionally involve engaging in combat—and combat is the real standout.
Combat has two central features—rolling the Dicey, and playing cards. On her own, Even has no real weapons; armed only with a simple slingshot. However, on her adventure, she can obtain magical cards, or purchase them from friend, card-enthusiast, and living shop: Mannie Dex. Cards range in abilities: from giving Even weapons to wield in combat, to traps to place in the battle arena, temporary buffs or spells, or cheat cards that can provide various bonuses when choosing cards.
When players get into combat, they have to hit specific enemy spots with their slingshot to collect energy that will charge whichever cards are drawn from their hand—players can add cards to their hand from their deck, but they’re chosen at random. Once they have cards to play, they’ll have to throw Dicey, and whatever number he shows, is the amount of Card Points they’ll get.
Each card has a different point value, so players have to decide which cards from their hand will be most effective in a given moment. Since Dicey doesn’t start out with all his numbers in-tact, players will need to strategize effectively—although players can pin cards from their hand to be used in a later roll.
Furthermore, there’s an added layer of combat within the several Board Game Arenas you’ll encounter throughout the game. These arenas are exactly as described—essentially a board game with different objectives for completion. As players battle and roll Dicey to use their cards, the dice roll also corresponds to how many spaces the piece will move on the board, so not only do players need to keep track of the fight, but also where their piece will land—since certain tiles can affect the battlefield.
“Visually, Lost in Random is incredible…”
It’s an incredibly unique take on deck-building/dice throwing combat, and makes for some interesting and challenging combat encounters. However, it can be a bit monotonous at times, particularly during longer fights, where a large amount of time is spent dodging enemy attacks and engaging in target-practice as you chip away at enemies for the energy to obtain effective attacks. Part of me wishes the combat had taken a more turn-based approach that would have incorporated a lot more strategy into the proceedings, rather than the chaotic, sometimes formulaic action structure.
Visually, Lost in Random is incredible—while not the most technically impressive, it does a lot with art direction and aesthetic that definitely shows off what the Unity engine is capable of. Its very clearly inspired by the early work of Tim Burton, Lost in Random does have a very Nightmare Before Christmas vibe, with even some of the NPCs resembling characters from the film, with long, spindly limbs, and ghastly characteristics.
It’s very dark, and playfully morbid, while still maintaining an air of whimsy to the whole affair. Music is equally Burton-esk; resembling a Danny Elfman score throughout the entire game. Voice acting is equally top-notch with every character and NPC sounding wholly their own. Furthermore, there’s a great use of guttural effect for some of the more monstrous characters that adds a lot of menace to their delivery.
However, it’s not an entirely perfect delivery, and it’s kind of a big problem with the game as a whole. There’s a genuine lack of polish throughout the game that does make it feel a bit amateurish at times, and kind of detracts from the whole experience. This is present in small ways, like reused assets and character models, as well as reused music in certain areas, to small visual glitches, like when reward screen trigger 10 seconds after a quest, or a few seconds before a fight is finished, creating a weird pacing disparity; to when Dicey goes into specific loot holes, and the loot glitches across the entire screen before forming into a pile outside the hole. Other strange hiccups
One of the more glaring issues involves cutscenes. While each cutscene is genuinely good, they all begin and end kind of unceremoniously—typically the ambient music will start or end before the cutscene properly transitions; there’s noticeable screen flickering and stationary assets between cutscene transitions, even thematically cutscenes just sort of happen and nothing in the town or story feels changed.
This was most notable in Threedom; which essentially plays out like a murder mystery as each of the three triplets blame each other for their father’s murder and it’s up to Even to solve the case. Highlighting this mystery is an appearance by the Shadowman—a boogeyman-like character who kidnaps Even’s friend Bernie, and who wants Even to solve the murder because no one fears him anymore, since the reality of living in a never-ending warzone has made people forget him; if she helps him, she gets Bernie back.
Throughout Threedom, you are repeatedly confronted by the Shadowman, who tries to intimidate you throughout your quest; and once the mystery is solved, Bernie is returned and all seems well. However, once you finish a town you cannot return, so you’re encouraged to finish any side-quests before moving on; which is exactly what I did, only to stumble upon a Shadowman encounter I had missed which seemed to conveniently forget that Bernie was now free of the Shadowman, and certain revelations had been brought to light.
When I decided to visit one of the triplets, they were still in their zone, spewing the same dialogue about war and her siblings as if nothing had happened. It just seemed like a glaring omission, especially when the game encourages you to finish a town completely before moving on.
However, despite these flaws, I do find myself genuinely enjoying Lost in Random and I’m genuinely invested in its story. It feels like a game from a bygone era—a singularly focused game, centered around a unique gameplay mechanic that would’ve been right at home on the PS2. Even with its shortcomings, there’s a lot to love in Lost in Random, and you’ll definitely want to stick with it until the end.