When was the last time you picked up a pen and waved it around like a sword, or stuck a bunch of cardboard boxes together to fashion yourself some armour? Embarking on an epic quest to the realms beyond this world can all be done right from the comfort of your backyard – at least, that’s what Lost in Play encourages you to believe.
This charming point-and-click adventure from Tel Aviv-based studio Happy Juice invites players to test the limits of their imagination with curious siblings Toto and Gal, and when I took them up on their offer, I didn’t expect that I’d never want the adventure to end.
Table of contents:
LOST IN PLAY VISUALS
The gorgeous artwork alone instantly made me want to dive into this animated world, not only because it reminded me so much of Saturday mornings spent watching cartoons but also because the character designs are just that charming. Toto and Gal aside, everything from frog princes to clueless giant fish is just too darn adorable. Every single element in a scene looks handcrafted with love, and even the smallest actions – like Gal shrugging when there’s a puzzle up ahead or Toto trying his best to reach something that’s way out of his league – are fully animated.
It’s obvious that there were no shortcuts made here, and even though each vibrant scene will make you want to stay and marvel at everything just a little bit longer, the environments never overstay their welcome. While other titles in the same genre might have that one stage that will frustrate you and have you wishing you could move on because you’re just sick and tired of seeing the same old thing, it never happened to me in this game thanks to the nature of the puzzles. There’s no pixel-hunting here either, which is just plain refreshing.
THE GAMEPLAY OF LOST IN PLAY
There are no texts or dialogues here – just random sounds and adorable gibberish, so you’ll really have to put two and two together using your intuition and common (and sometimes not-so-common) sense. But while the wildly imaginative theme of the game doesn’t take itself (or any laws of reality) seriously, the puzzles themselves aren’t too ridiculous. I didn’t find myself getting stuck very often, and during the few times that I did, the handy Hint system helped me progress through the game without a hitch (some puzzles or mini-games even have a Skip button you can opt for when push comes to shove).
The puzzles are also incredibly varied – nothing felt tired or tedious, and each new challenge felt fresh and exciting. There’s one challenge where you have to piece together the daring tales of a sweet old lady who, when her handbag gets stolen by a thief, winds up on a horse, chases a squirrel, and ends up falling from a tree that’s been sawed off by a random dude – the catch is that her fuzzy memory makes her tell the story in random bits, so you have to work it all out in the right order.
This kind of hilarious puzzle is unique and totally in theme with the whole game. Plus, there’s a pervading sense of wonder to the whole thing, even when you’re basically fulfilling favors for random creatures who, as expected, all have their own agenda in the grand scheme of things. Helping a frog open a can of flies will prompt him to help you pull out a sword from a stone while playing a game of chess with a seagull will encourage him to fly across an island and retrieve a treasure chest for you.
There are also plenty of what I consider LEGO-esque humor thrown in for good measure – in particular, every chapter transition will show you snippets of what happens to the characters you leave behind. For instance, there’s this totally chill old dude hanging out in the belly of a giant fish. You free him, he floats away to his own groove and ends up being swallowed up by a different fish.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
Now, I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone but suffice it to say that you’ll need to let go of any worldly things and let your imagination lead you as Toto and Gal try their best to find a way home. The game perfectly captures the sense of childlike innocence here, and it really does feel like you’re part of this wild made-up game of made-up things where consequences are relative. When something doesn’t go according to plan, the kids see it as an opportunity for a bigger adventure. When something fails or gets lost, they just laugh it off and move on to more important things. Even when things seem bleak, the kids keep their pureheartedness front and centre, because even greedy goblin kings need a helping hand and a friend.
More than the lovely gameplay elements, it’s this kind of lightheartedness that makes the game so enjoyable. Top that off with the intuitive controls that feel optimized for mobile (the touchscreen works wonders for well-made point-and-click games), the charming visuals, and the superb narrative, and the game definitely counts as 4 hours well-spent.
In the end, you’re never quite sure if it was all just a dream or if it was all real, as the end credits will show you clips of what might have been had it all been a product of the kids’ overactive imagination. For me personally, I’d like to think the adventure was 100% real – who’s to say what’s real these days and what’s not, anyways?