Graphical adventures fail to settle. Most new games seem to have to start with first principles and decide on their own verbs, loops, control scheme, puzzle types, difficulty, hint system… and it seems like there are more misses than hits . Which makes it all the more impressive that developer Happy Juice Games has come up with something cohesive, original, and a delight from start to finish.
Lost in Play, the first single-player game from the Tel Aviv-based studio, has many of the hallmarks of point-and-click adventures of the Golden Age: a cartoon style, humorously animated protagonists, object-based puzzles, and a 2D that piques curiosity. scenes serving both as a play space and as a reward for clearing the previous area. However, it also eliminates many classic bugbears: pixel hunting is impossible because you’re moving a character, not a cursor; not using any words in the game leaves the hint system helpful but not too transparent; there is very little backtracking because the environments are small and the time they spend is brief; and wacky dream logic is completely excused because you’re playing into kids’ imaginations.
They’re not necessarily new inventions, but they’re put together very deftly, making for a great player experience that avoids common minor irritations. If you’ve ever played a game where a character can’t reach something and you just think, “Well, stretch!», Lost in Play hears you: the improvised scale is never more than right barely quite high, and the kids stand on their tiptoes to reach what you want. When you cross four screens of a vast expanse, there are only two screens on the way back – Lost in Play simply won’t let you get bored.
There’s constant newness in every aspect of the game. The puzzles aren’t just the same idea that comes up over and over again in new clothes; the object and environment-based puzzles increase in complexity, culminating at one point in a hilarious mix of addictive adventure game tableau and heist movie planning montage. In addition to these basic puzzles, there are regularly separate little games: a board game against a seagull; a monster evasion logic test; a physics-based skills challenge. Since you’re using a controller, there are brief button-based activities like piloting a vehicle or pumping a power gauge. The difficulty curve is impressively smooth – and while the wordless gameplay and fun animations are very kid-friendly, the trickier mini-games will have adults scratching their heads.
The sound design is excellent from the second the game loads with an irresistibly playful click of the finger a cappella and throughout endearing gibberish spoken by everyone in the game – which is well-acted despite the nonsense. The variety of art and animation seems endless, with nearly every action having a detailed and playful special sequence in a way that Golden Age adventure games never could.
In its roughly five hours, Lost in Play barely misses a beat, offering brain games and effervescent entertainment. In doing so, many of the genre’s design challenges look easy. Here’s hoping it inspires and influences future graphic adventures – or at least gets a sequel.