I’m always impressed by the buckets of imagination that seem to pour out of young children. Recently, around the breakfast table, my kids were telling me their dreams involving giants, wolves, magic, and adventure. I couldn’t help but wonder when exactly I made the transition away from those charming sleep escapades and instead began dreaming of being late to finals for a college class I forgot to attend all semester. Probably around college.
In any case, I didn’t think about it too long, because one of the children suddenly made a rude noise and there were giggles all around. And that, in a nutshell, is the overall vibe of Lost in Play, a colorful, young-at-heart 2D point-and-click adventure game by Happy Juice Games. It’s filled with fun characters, imaginative locations, well-presented puzzles, and more toilet humor than you can shake a wet plunger at.
Charm oozes out right from the title screen, when you’re greeted with a jaunty a capella tune. As the game opens in a dreamy meadow alive with frogs, gnomes, and a little girl with a cumulus cloud of red hair, the art and attention to detail struck me right away. The lush, vibrant locations and characters are carefully crafted and smoothly animated, reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon. In fact, the developers specifically advertise that it “will make you feel like you’re playing a cartoon,” and this isn’t overstated. The production level is top-notch with its rich visuals and whimsical orchestral soundtrack, and it immediately draws you into its fanciful and nostalgic world.
Nostalgia is a word I could use often, for multiple reasons. The premise here lends itself to memory lane. Two siblings wake up on a lazy no-school sort of morning, the sister tries to get the brother to play, he ignores her for a while, nose in his video game, and she eventually uses a craft project she finds in the back of an old comic book to finally get his attention. From then on, their play begins and the rest of the time is devoted to delving in and out of their imaginary scenarios, which range from being chased by a beast in the forest to being swallowed by a sea monster to imprisonment by goblins. Or at least, let’s hope they’re imaginary. The setting switches back and forth between their neighborhood and the worlds they pretend, eventually seeming to be enveloped entirely by their make-believe; hence “Lost in Play.” Your goal simply becomes to find your way back home, but the tone is light and humorous, and the stakes never seem terribly high.
Other than that setup, there’s not much “story” here. It’s mostly a series of inventive scenarios with relatively straightforward goals, like traveling to a particular place on a map, collecting a magical item, or busting out of prison (kids these days). There’s no dialogue or text in the game, so everything apart from the main menu is communicated visually. The characters speak in a sort of gibberish that resembles that of The Sims games, while speech bubbles appear over their heads with some kind of pictogram indicating just what it is they’re getting at.
The setting also seems to be a nostalgic throwback to early 1990s culture, complete with VHS tapes, an original colorless Game Boy, and pay phones from which you can order pizza. It doesn’t lean too heavily on references, though, because the developers have stated their intention to provide an experience that can be enjoyed by the whole family. As a “story meant for all,” they even suggest you play while your kids watch. So I did exactly that. For three or four evenings, there was a chant of “Lost in Play!” ringing through my house, and I was happy to oblige. The puzzles are probably a bit too difficult for the younger folk to take the helm, but there are plenty of opportunities for kids to shout out their suggestions.
The humor usually lands, though I found it a little unfortunate that bathroom jokes had to do so much of the heavy lifting. The whimsy and charm are so well done otherwise that by the twelfth bodily function or underwear gag, even the kids were starting to roll their eyes. It never goes too far over the line, however, so it’s easily ignored, or, if you’ve carefully maintained at least some of your immaturity like I have, will still earn a few chuckles here and there.
As for the gameplay, it’s fairly traditional point-and-click, although you’re actually provided with three possible control schemes: controller, keyboard, and mouse. The developers recommend you play with a controller, which I did—and this felt perfectly natural. Over the course of the game, you’ll alternate control of brother and sister, moving each through their respective scene, and the various hotspots will be highlighted as you near them, allowing interaction with a button press. If you prefer, you can point and click to your heart’s content instead.
About half of the puzzles are inventory-based. You’ll pick up whatever isn’t nailed down, such as a lawnmower, a rubber duck, a chicken, or a page of heavy metal sheep music (no, that isn’t a typo), and figure out who to give them to or where to use them in the environment. The other half of the challenges are individual logic puzzles or minigames, such as playing a board game with a seagull, telling a time-warping fairy tale to a goblin king, or assembling a flying dragon contraption like it was a piece of IKEA furniture.
These individual puzzles are almost always interesting and well-presented, but the pacing dips a little during some of these sections, which, while a good fit for a slow gamer like me, caused a bit of impatience in the rest of the family as they watched me fiddle with a logic brainteaser for five minutes or more. There’s a puzzle involving a relay event with rubber ducks that had me stumped for a while until I finally did some math in my head to solve it. Such pressure when the young natives grow restless! Despite that, the overall difficulty is pretty low, and even if you do get stuck, there’s a hint button always there to point you in the right direction with some kind of visual clue.
It’s not an especially lengthy experience, as we were watching the end credits before the four-and-a-half-hour mark, and I couldn’t help but want a bit more. There’s even a montage towards the end that quickly highlights other moments of the heroes’ journey home, and even those brief ideas were so intriguing that I felt it a shame we didn’t actually get to play them. Still, that’s more of a praise than a complaint, as we thoroughly enjoyed the time we did spend in their fantastical world.
While the story and characters are probably too slight for Lost in Play to remain memorable for years to come, the amount of playfulness and joy on display in this polished romp of an adventure is likely to bring a genuine smile to your face, no matter your age. The challenge is fairly light, but the sheer variety of creative ideas and quirky jokes will keep you entertained all the way to the heartwarming end. And hey, if you’ve got kids in your life, you might find that it’s one of those rare examples of make-believe play that the whole family can get lost in together. Imagine that.
It’s easy to lose yourself in Lost in Play, whose abundant charm is sure to spark your childlike sense of wonder, making this a treat for adventurers of any age.
- Beautifully animated cartoon visuals
- Wide variety of fanciful locations and creative puzzles
- Light-hearted, nostalgic story with a heartwarming ending
- Great for the whole family to play together
- Leaves you wanting more
- Not all of the juvenile humor lands
- A handful of the trickier logic puzzles slow the pace a bit
- Leaves you wanting more
Brian played Lost in Play in PC using a review code provided by the game’s publisher.