2018’s Fe was a breakthrough for developer Zoink. The studio is known for colorful, dark storybook adventure games like Stick it to the Man or Flipping Death, but Fe was a noticeably more whimsical turn. It was also one of the earliest games for the EA Originals indie label, and now, Zoink has a follow-up in the form of Lost in Random. This new adventure incorporates more of a focus on exploration in a city ruled by an evil force, and as the name implies, it all ties into the nature of unpredictability.
Revealed at the recent EA Play 2020 online event, Lost in Random focuses on the story of Even, a resident of the city of Random, a place where an individual’s station in life is decided at the age of 12 by a sacred dice. Eventually, Even discovers another magical, sentient dice that allows her to change her fate, and the duo goes on the run within the city. As they evade guards and other villains looking to take the opposing dice for themselves, Even and her partner, Dicey, learn of the city’s inner workings and what it means for everyone in the town of Random.
Lost in Random is described as a gothic fairytale, which is certainly in keeping with Zoink’s previous efforts. With a story written by Ryan North, who worked on the Adventure Time tv-series and Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic, it has a style that seems to be influenced by the likes of children’s author Roald Dahl and the works of animation studio Laika. Visually, it’s like watching a stop-motion animated film like Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas. In the game’s trailer shown at EA Play we got to see some familiar elements of platforming and action gameplay, with the protagonist using Dicey to attack enemies and maneuver through the city. An aspect of that we learned more of in our chat was progression, which is akin to a board game, often guided by an unpredictable element that decides where you go next.
Shortly after its reveal, we had the chance to speak with game director Klaus Lyngeled and art director Olov Redmalm about Lost in Random, and they explained a bit more of their plans for this dark fairytale.
“It’s a narrative-driven action-adventure, with a board game twist about a girl and her dice,” said Redmalm. “We were very thrilled with the great response we got from [EA Play], and people seemed to really get the style, and they’re curious about the game. People seem to see that it’s supposed to be this claymation look, which we weren’t sure would be clear from the start.[…] We’re happy about how everything revolves around this dice, both story-wise and gameplay-wise. When we started pre-production, we explored all these different drawings and moods from different inspirations from Laika films to even Tim Burton movies–we just went nuts exploring different dark fairytale themes. But it wasn’t until this image of a dice and a girl came up, that’s where things started to kick off with the game.”
The developers weren’t quite ready to share more details about the mechanics during our chat, but they did clear some things up about Lost in Random. Even and Dicey will explore the city of Random and its six districts, meeting different characters and fighting against foes looking to stop their progress. While the developers were hesitant to say that it’s an RPG, they stated that the game would allow you to have fairly in-depth conversations with NPCs via dialog trees in town, where you can inquire about the city and its inhabitants.
What sets Lost In Random apart from Zoink’s previous games is the mechanic surrounding the dice. While Even has her own skills and weapons, such as a slingshot that attack enemies at a distance, she can also partner up with Dicey for team-attacks. Along with that, Dicey can manipulate the rules of the different districts of Random, allowing Even to travel through the city more freely than other citizens.
“There’s a lot of things you get from playing board games. When you’re throwing dice, you’re getting something you wish for or getting something you don’t exactly want. If you’re stuck with the latter, what do you do with that then?,” said Lyngeled. “That’s what we’re looking at in this game: how unpredictability comes in during an adventure. Nobody else in the whole world has a dice, except for [Even], and suddenly she can use the dice to change the rules of the world. It’s a bit like “Alice in Wonderland,” it has these game mechanics built into the world everywhere. So it becomes the identity of everything in the world. The rules of board games and dice have shaped everything that’s everywhere in the world.”
The developers remained tight-lipped about how all this coalesces in the game during our interview. However, Lyngeled mentioned the Oddworld series as another source of inspiration for the game, which relied heavily on worldbuilding and a design centered around dismantling the world’s systems. That series also featured a protagonist, who, despite their meager and humble appearance, was able to bend the environment’s rules to their whims to traverse through a dangerous world.
Zoink are taking many cues from an eclectic range of games, and it’ll be interesting to see how this unpredictable narrative-driven adventure game turns out. As of now, Lost in Random will release sometime in 2021 for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, with next-gen releases to be determined.