I (sometimes fondly) remember the endless bickering between me and my sisters when growing up—before puberty kicked in, when everything was always wonderful, and awesome, and when we didn’t care about individual differences in interests. Lost In Play is exactly that. You play as brother and sister Toto and Gal who, in-between the endless teasing, somehow got lost and have to make your way back home. On the trip back, you’ll enlist the help of a giant stork, ask directions to a suspicious looking bearded fairy at multiple occasions, and of course have to puzzle-adventure your way out of things. It’s an adventure game after all.
And a quite beautiful one as well. The game received a bucketload of positive critique and won numerous indie game awards. The screenshots I took don’t really do it justice: the animations are lovely to look at and the art direction greatly enhances the “lost in a fabulous world” feeling. It’s colorful too, there’s nothing really dark, although some in-game jokes could be put there for adults instead of children. In short, Happy Juice hit that nail right on the head.
As my wife & I were playing this game, we were wondering: what kind of adventure game is this? It’s clearly not the comical satire that say a Monkey Island or Irony Curtain is trying to throw you, primarily aimed at adults. But the puzzles in-between the pointing and clicking were quite the brainteasers and reminded us of Nintendo’s Professor Layton series: some we even had to skip! I think both children and adults will have a hard time at certain points in the game.
The adventure mechanics itself are pretty barebones: you’ll never pick up more than 4 items, each scene is only a couple of screens long and never consists out of complex branches, there’s no overload of pixel-perfect clicks and interactive objects cluttering the screen, and objectives are always very clear. Most adventure components consist of get-this-to-get-that sections: if you’re looking for a challenge in terms of adventure gaming, look elsewhere. However, if you like mixing up that with brainy puzzles and an overall good-feel reminiscent of last year’s TOEM, then perhaps don’t sleep on Lost In Play.
And just like in TOEM, the reason we had so much fun with Lost In Play is because we also played it with two. There’s no option to use two controllers, but you don’t need to: puzzles will leave you stumped with ample time to pass on the controller in the hopes of your partner solving that particularly annoying one. I don’t think I’d enjoy the game playing alone: the giggles and poking around radiates family love that would make me even more lonely.
The bad parts, then. The game is quite short, even for an adventure game: we had fun for about
5 hours. Near the end, a cut-scene teases even more cool looking scenery like a flame-spitting volcano or an icy climb, but unfortunately, we only get to see Toto and Gal conquer these on their way home. The game has been developed with quite a small team and it’s very cheap (about
€15?) so I’ll forgive them.
Whatever you do, don’t play it on your Switch like we did! I know, we’ll never learn. In our defense, it was on sale in the eShop, and we otherwise would never have known it or picked it up. Moving around the two children feels very sluggish, the controls respond late, and the loading times are just a tad too long (although luckily not as dramatic as Animal Crossing). The worst part is interacting with the world where I regularly selected the wrong thing. Yet another lackluster adventure game port: stick to your trusty mouse for this one!
The game is divided into a dozen or so episodes where each episode is its own micro-cosmos full of giggles and a few recurring characters. You can replay each episode separately if desired, but watch out when closing the game, as we had to do everything again even if the game reassured us it was saved with a “saved 15 seconds ago” message. Perhaps that was a bug, but after a tiring puzzle we really didn’t feel like doing again, that sucked the enjoyment out of the game—until we discovered that some puzzles could be skipped all-together. I also felt that some puzzle mechanics like sliding in a 2D space were a bit overused.
That said, if you like colorful hand-drawn art that beautifully animates, and if you like levels where you can play as a chicken (that takes selfies), and if you aren’t scared of a good puzzle or two, then Lost In Play is there for you to discover and have fun with.