The Backlog – Lost in Random Review: Luck Isn’t Much of a Lady

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One of the dastardly denizens that keeps court in Batman’s infamous rogue’s gallery is the divisive duet of one, Two-Face. Having had half his face hideously scarred while prosecuting a mob boss, Harvey Dent is obsessed with duality. The world is black and white to Two-Face, who obsessively uses a two-headed coin to make decisions even when doing so is not in his best interest. It’s an interesting gimmick for a Batman villain. Now take that duality, but make it six-fold, change the coin into a die, and you essentially have the main gimmick for Lost in Random, the 2021 indie released by EA’s smaller label, EA Originals. Players may think this gimmick might be cute, charming, or even challenging. But they may soon learn it’s really nothing more than an aggravation.

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Lost In Random Review – Retro Rewind

Art and Gameplay

On the surface level, Lost in Random absolutely has the chops to stand next to unique art styles such as Shovel Knight or Cult of the Lamb. The world looks as if someone had nicked all the set dressings from Coraline, giving the appearance of the entire game a vague Tim Burton vibe to it, similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Animation lends itself to being a stop-motion nightscape without truly being stop-motion.

The deep color palate of blues and purples swim together to form a dreamscape, albeit a dreamscape that leans toward nightmare. If you’re getting deja vu to a Psychonauts playthrough, your head is in the right place. In fact, it may make it tough to tell where the “real world” ends and the actual dream sequences begin.

The game heavily leans into the concepts and mechanics of luck and randomness. Starting in the ward of Onecroft, the Land of Random’s slums, players are introduced to two sisters, Even and Odd. Upon their twelfth birthday, all children are required to roll the Dark Queen’s dark die, which essentially determines where they will live and the child’s caste in life all in one quick roll. Odd, being the older, is snagged by Nanny Fortuna and forced to roll the die. Rolling a six, Odd is snatched away by the Dark Queen and held in her palace.

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The other citizens of Random just accept the abduction as simply Odd’s lot in life, for as their mantra says, “Random is fair.” Even is not one of these citizens, and after grabbing her trusty slingshot sets off to save her sister.

From the dark fantastical settings to the Narrator, whose voice sounds like the product of combining the narrators from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and The Stanley Parable, the entire experience feels like the game tucked the player in for the evening and is actively reading them a bedtime story. However, the gimmick of randomness and the mechanic of luck both wear out their stay pretty quickly, and a bad roll or two can take already clunky combat and extend it into complete tedium, the hard way.

Too Gimmickey

In gaming, there’s a sort of agreement between games and players – games are going to throw a bunch of enemies at you, and you’ll take them on with a weapon. The weapon may be weak to start, but it’s there. Even in genres like survival horror, it may not be there immediately, but it will be there. In Lost in Random, however, the weapon relies on a dice roll. While this is reminiscent of tabletop gaming, in video games it’s a gimmick that starts cute but wears out its welcome. Even’s slingshot doesn’t always do damage.

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What it will do is knock crystals loose from an enemy to power up her sentient die, Dicey. Throwing Dicey determines if you can play a card that heals you, buffs you, or gives you a weapon. That’s right – even your ability to wield a weapon is determined by luck.

I can’t say I’m opposed to luck-based mechanics in gaming; I’m an unabashed Mario Party apologist. But it wears thin when I have a minor mob of enemies cornering me and I am denied the chance to fight back due to a dice roll. It takes the already-monotonous battles of Random and unnecessarily extends them.

In short, Lost in Random has a lot going for it – the artwork, the story, the characters – but when it comes to battles and gameplay, rolls a natural one.


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Ryan Bates
Ryan Bates
A gamer since the days games only had 8-bits to work with, Ryan is a So Cal native who likes gaming now as much as he did in olden times when the year started with a 1. Other interests include theme parks, boxing, obscure trivia, and trash movies. You can find him out in the World Wide Weird on Twitter at @RyanWritesGood.
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