There's a very obvious reason why Lost in Play has the title it does - it literally lets you lose yourself in the wild ideas that come from children's imaginations. Kids, on the whole, tend to be pretty content with the simple things in life. A cardboard box can become a spaceship, a stick a sword, a grassy knoll a mountain filled with Bigfoots and bears. And that's exactly the vibe of Lost in Play, a brilliant new game from a brand new developer, Happy Juice Games.
You play as brother / sister duo, Toto and Gal, who start playing a fairly simple game together about being chased by a bear, but end up on an elaborate Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure. They've got until nightfall to get back through a frog-themed portal and return home, but you're about to discover many whimsical obstacles will lie in their way.
Over the course of its circa four-hour journey, Lost in Play will take you by the hand and lead you through forests, oceans, and even alien landing sites. You'll help frogs open cans, challenge monsters to a game of checkers, follow IKEA-mimicking instructions to build a ship, have a puppet show with a grumpy octopus, and generally frolic in the land of imagination the game delivers.
It's like Happy Juice Games has created their own cartoon with Lost in Play. Visually the title is stunning, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the screenshots have come from some new Saturday morning animated show rather than from a game. It's crisp, clean, and absolutely oozes personality. Because it's on the shorter side and you're constantly moving through new environments, the novelty of the presentation never wears off. It's palpable that the developers are coming to games with animation and art backgrounds.
Both in its explorable areas and in its puzzles, Lost in Play never repeats itself. There are a few puzzles in the same vein, but just enough variation means that you won't find yourself rolling your eye at "yet another" puzzle of the same type. There's always something brilliantly silly about each one too, so that sense of play is echoed through every element of this beautiful game.
I will say that the more contained puzzles can occasionally be super frustrating. The aforementioned checkers puzzle, for example, annoyed me when I dove into the Steam Next Fest demo, and then again as part of the full game, but thankfully none of the irks I have ever made me want to stop playing. The game does well to always offer you the option to remind yourself of the puzzle rules, along with a hint or two, so you won't feel stuck for long. Plus, they're regularly wonderful little mini-games, like a variation on Connect Four with colorful crabs, or a maze-like series of puzzles where you've got to evade a bear.
The rest of the game is based around your classic point-and-click affair, which is designed to be played with a controller first and keyboard and mouse second. You'll have to find certain items to satisfy the wonderful assortment of characters you'll meet, whether it's four rubber ducks for an angry goblin, some glasses for a visually challenged frog, or something to help reduce the five o'clock shadow on a humanoid cactus' face. Usually, it'll mean trading one item for another in a chain of passing the baton that always feels incredibly satisfying once you've figured out who needs what, and in what order.
Lost in Play is one of those rare games that doesn't feel like anything else. Yes the mechanics are well-trodden by the likes of classic point-and-click adventures and the Professor Layton series, but the way it constantly lives up to its title means you really will get lost in its world for an afternoon or two. And you won't regret it.
Lost in Play is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.