Game: “Lost in Play”
Lost in Play is a 2D cartoon-styled adventure game from Israeli developer Happy Juice Games, in which a brother and sister go on a wild adventure within their own hyper-active imaginations. Released in February on PC and ported to the Switch this August the game is full of charm, character and a great variety of mini-games in a tight four-ish-hour package that, a few minor technical glitches aside, didn’t disappoint.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Fun world to explore|
+ Variety of mini-games and puzzles
+ Goblin Poker
|Negatives||– A few irritating puzzles (crabs…)|
– Occasional technical glitches
– Some 90’s adventure-game logic
|Price (When Reviewed)||£17.99|
|Our Playtime||4 hours (including lunch break)|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch, PC|
For all its beautiful cartoon graphics, Lost in Play is a traditional adventure game that’s very firmly in the style of the Lucasarts classics of the 90s, including some of those games’ creative (to put it kindly) leaps of logic. Each area you travel through is self-contained, usually with a clear objective that you’ll sort of reverse engineer your way to completing. There is a relatively low number of interactable objects and inventory items working in the games favour to keep things streamlined and avoid killing the pace – you won’t find anything as convoluted as some of the more frustrating puzzles from the likes of Monkey Island here.
With the adventure game side quite straightforward much of the challenge instead is found in the various mini games you’ll need to complete. These mostly take the forms of actual board games, though imaginatively reinterpretted, from an asymmetrical version of checkers, a crab-based connect four (kind of) and, my personal favourite, Goblin Poker, a game so good that I’m tempted to take it out of the game and play it in the real world. Most of these are quite challenging, taking me a good few attempts to beat (especially that damned crab game), though I can’t deny that beating them felt good. It’s almost a shame that they’re only used once, as once you’ve learned how to play it’s time to move on.
Stylistically Lost in Play certainly stands out, with bold 2D cartoon graphics and some great sound design as well. The characters all speak in a kind of ‘Simlish’ nonsense, but it gets across the emotional message clearly, with direct objectives given through simple pictorial speech bubbles. There’s a huge variety of locations, from the kids’ bedroom to a troll-mechanic enclave in the desert, to the goblin king’s castle. My big complaint here is that there are a few travel montages used which display some genuinely brilliant scenes – battling a giant centipede-thing, climbing a mountain with hundreds of eyes, I could go on – why aren’t they the focus of some gameplay? I took about four hours to get through Lost in Play, which felt pretty much spot on for pacing, but I still feel a few of these scenes could have found a place with a few cuts elsewhere.
An overabundance of creativity is an odd criticism to make, I’ll grant, but I was left feeling that the world Happy Juice Games have crafted here is bigger than the game that showcases it. Whether it’s something they’ll return to we’ll have to wait and see, but there is certainly scope to do so. Focusing back on Lost in Play it does benefit from a world where, despite the restrictions on exploration, you don’t feel like you quite touch the sides.
The narrative of the game is quite simple. From a visually gripping introductory dream world you guide the brother and sister as the sister first tries to get her gameboy-addicted brother to play with her, and then their journey into and back from the imagination-land their play takes them through. It’s all quite low stakes and certainly kid friendly – I played along with my 5 year old and while the gameplay was a bit much for him to get his head around, he certainly enjoyed the setting and story.
Performance on the Switch was mostly good. I played it in docked mode and the graphics looked fantastic on my TV, while the bold style kept it very readable in handheld mode as well. There were a few graphical glitches I spotted, from a character duplicating out of their idle animation to carry out an action, to a worm that flickered with broken textures, but nothing major. More annoying was a crash during a loading screen which meant I had to replay an entire previous section due to the minimal autosaving, though this only happened once.
In summary Lost in Play is a great debut from this studio, and I’m eager to see what they come out with next. Fittingly for the game’s narrative there’s an overflow of imagination and charm to be found here in a compact package that won’t outstay its welcome; packed with story, puzzles and games that are clever and varied. And Goblin Poker, which might be worth the entry price alone.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.