There’s something special about the imaginary worlds that a child’s active mind can create. And the new point-and-click puzzler Lost in Play can mirror that creativity, taking gamers on a fanciful adventure packed with bizarre creatures, challenging conundrums and appealing visuals.
The story centers on a duo of rambunctious siblings—a little red-haired girl and her blonde mop-topped brother. Gamers tag-team play as both throughout the adventure. Things start out with Sis tumbling out of bed early on a sun-kissed morning and wanting to play with her sleepy headed Bro. And before you can say cardboard-cutout-monster-head the two are off into an imaginary world of boardgame-playing seagulls, sneaky castle-attacking quests and dragon-dungeon explorations.
This day’s play, however, has taken them way beyond a magical gate. And they only have the time that it takes for the full moon to pare down to a sliver to make it back through that power-imbued gate or they’ll be trapped in the fantasy dreamscape forever. And they have oh-so-many environmental puzzles to untangle, talking animals and fairies to deal with, and quests to pursue to make that homeward journey happen.
The point-and-click challenges are well constructed and range from connect-the-dot problems to checkers-like board games to mix-and-match-the-symbol puzzles. A number of logic puzzles involve things like luring a monster through a maze; opening a treasure chest on the back of a giant kid-gulping fish; and herding a spritely critter into a certain corner of a kid-sized board game.
Then there are quests for talking frogs who need a can opener for a tin of flies, or a goblin who wants you to find a suitable number of hidden rubber ducks before he’ll give you travel passage on a giant crane.
The game contains dialogue, but it’s all gibberish. However, the various encountered characters are easily understandable through their gestures and the visuals around you. And even though there are no verbal punchlines, slapstick chuckles are a still big part of the play.
Lost in Play just oozes cartoony, kid-pleasing charm. In fact, it’s colorful environments will appeal to most any age. On top of that, the quests and puzzles can be easily played with kids and parents working side-by-side (more on that in a sec), and those conundrum challenges can be broken down into short stretches of play.
There’s enough variety in the puzzlers themselves that the time spent never feels grinding or slow.
Some of the fantasy world environments and the game’s creatures, such as the dragon dungeon and a huge fish with dozens of eyes, can feel a bit odd and dark. But the game always reminds you that you’re in an imaginary place. And it never crosses a line into something scary or creepy.
The main villain who attempts to stop the kids’ progress—driven mainly by his own greedy obsessions—is far more goofy than mean and evil.
There are a few potty-humor giggles here. For example, while using a flashlight to search for something under her bed, Sis surprises their cat who’s in the process of licking his own backside. But those gas-passing and belching bits are all in the realm of your typical Saturday-morning cartoon show. A bit of theft is required in some of the quest solutions. And a duck smokes a pipe.
It should also be noted that if little kids dive into this colorful game, they might need a bit of parental help. The game helps steer kids to puzzle solutions with straightforward indicators and a helpful clue system, but sometimes the challenges can be tough. (Mom or Dad playing with young gamers is a perfect solution, and a fun bonding choice.)
Lost in Play goes to great lengths to recreate the fun of a kids’ imaginary domain with vibrant and cartoony visuals. And, except for a few eyeroll-worthy moments, Mom and Dad can enjoy the point-and-click fun as well.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.