Review – Lost in Play
Speaking as a curmudgeonly adult, who doesn’t wish they were a little kid again? No bills, little to no responsibilities, and hardly a care in the world. For most children, the biggest stressors are hastily slapping together homework before it’s due, and returning home from playing outside before the streetlights turn on (although, I might be dating myself there). As a boring grownup, who wouldn’t want to go back to watching Saturday morning cartoons and daydreaming with impunity? Well, while that might not be a realistic goal, Lost in Play from Happy Juice Games comes pretty close to recapturing that feeling.
Playing as a couple of siblings (an older brother and a younger sister), you’ll embark on a journey of fantasy and whimsy while pretending to go on an epic adventure. The premise seems simple enough, but much like our protagonists, there’s no way to way to prepare yourself for just how outrageous things will get. Almost immediately, they get lost inside their own imaginations and have to use their wits to escape.
Lost in Play is a point-and-click adventure of the simplest sort, not that that’s a bad thing by any stretch. The controls are basic, with the cursor moving at good speed and the inventory system being minimalistic and easy to use. I always appreciate when a point-and-click game doesn’t require sifting through numerous menus and makes the experience more user-friendly. Lost in Play is a game about children and is easy enough for children to play.
A point-and-click adventure game is only as good as its puzzles, and this is just one of many areas where Lost in Play excels. This game is jam packed with puzzles, and shockingly, no two are the same. What’s even more (pleasantly) surprising is that none of the solutions to the puzzles are absurdly difficult or ridiculously abstract. Every puzzle has a solution that makes sense, often times using items collected along the journey and in ways that make sense. In many cases you’re even a list of things needed to progress past the current obstacle.
For example, in order to get closer to your home, you’ll have to help a goblin riding a giant stork find several rubber duckies. Some are easy to spot and will require you to perform tasks for the people holding them. Others are a little tougher to find, but your old tighty-whities wearing fairy godfather is nearby to give you some hints if you should need them. I swear that will make more sense once you play Lost in Play. Not much more, but a little at least.
Although, not every puzzle can be solved by simply finding the corrected item. There are a few puzzles that have you playing against the AI, and these proved to be more challenging than I would have expected from the majority of the other puzzles. The AI in Lost in Play is surprisingly competent, making for some tougher interactions. I had a fairly difficult time trying to best a smug pirate seagull in a game involving lining up orange and blue crabs before your opponent could. Once again, that will make sense once you’ve played the game.
My one minor issue with Lost in Play is that there were a couple of puzzles where the rules or object of the challenge weren’t very clear. For instance, there was a driving game where you had to navigate your way through a video game where the screen changed its environments depending where you were on the map. The hint supposedly shows you your starting location, but the terrain never seemed to match up to where the starting point said it was. I only solved that one through lots of trial and error and driving around aimlessly.
Another puzzle required me to hit the correct pattern of symbols in a jail cell, but even with the hint, the order of the symbols were never clearly explained. It took a while before I finally understood what the puzzle was asking for, but even after knowing the answer, parts of it still didn’t quite make sense. Thankfully, the vast majority of the puzzles in Lost in Play are delightful and logical… in their own right.
The bizarre nature of the game is further highlighted by its art design. I know it’s been said about other games, but Lost in Play is truly like playing a cartoon. The art style is reminiscent of something you’d see in Gravity Falls or Over the Garden Wall. There are tons of locations to visit, each filled with hilarious characters and oddities to behold. Everything is clean and vibrant, and the animations are smooth with no framerate issues. What impressed me most was the layer of depth to the environments, as well as the dramatic lighting effects. For all its cutesie aesthetic, Lost in Play is a gorgeous game on a technical level.
The sound design is also really strong. Even though the spoken dialogue is all made up gibberish, the voice acting is still well delivered. There’s never an issue understanding what’s going on onscreen thanks to each character’s tone, context clues, and visuals. The sound effects are appropriately zany and cartoonish, as is the soundtrack.
I was highly anticipating Lost in Play, but it far exceeded my expectations. For the most part, the puzzles aren’t overly difficult, but they are incredibly entertaining. The solutions make sense and feel organic to discover throughout the journey. The various characters and locations are fantastically weird, in the best possible sense. If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, or even just a big kid looking to recapture the feeling of their youth, then you can’t pass up Lost in Play.
Superbly animated with surprising depth and dynamic lighting effects. It feels like playing a cartoon.
A point-and-click adventure jam packed with a wide variety of clever and fun puzzles. Only a few puzzles were a little confusing at first, but none of the solutions were outlandish or unfair.
While the dialogue is all gibberish, the voice acting is still well delivered. The sound effects are appropriately zany and cartoonish, as is the soundtrack.
An absolute gem of a game that I couldn’t put down. It’s like playing a cartoon made from your wildest daydreams. Even more impressive is that no two puzzles are the same and their solutions aren’t absurd.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Lost in Play is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Lost in Play was provided by the publisher.