The lost Child is a Playstation 4, Playstation Vita and Nintendo Switch first-person dungeon crawling JRPG developed by Kadokawa Games. That name may not be familiar to you as a fair chunk of their catalogue has yet to leave Japan, but a couple of games you may recognize are God Wars: Future Past and Natural Doctrine which received mixed responses from critics. They do however happen to share the same parent company; Kadokawa Corporation, with Spike Chunsoft who have developed the brilliant Zero Escape series and FromSoftware, you know the guys behind the unstoppable titan that is the Soul’s franchise. Upon learning this I got excited, if even a fraction of talent was absorbed through osmosis I was in for a good time.
What exactly is The Lost Child about? The story focuses on the player-controlled character Hayato Ibuki who is a journalist for the occult magazine, Lost. During an investigation into why so many people have been jumping in front of trains he is pushed onto the tracks by a dark and shadowy force only to be saved by a mysterious woman who hands him a suitcase and tells him he must live before running off. Congratulations you have just become The Chosen One to in act the will of God on Earth and face off against many a demon, fallen angel and evil deities known as Astrals. Shortly after receiving the case a new mysterious woman turns up at your office claiming to be an Angel and your guide as The Chosen One. Of course, there is more to it than that you will be meeting various characters along the way who will help and hinder you all with questionable fealty and objectives. But uncovering just what everyone is up to for yourself is all part of the fun.
If you’ve played a Shin Megami Tensei game like Devil Summoner you will have some idea of what to expect when it comes to the gameplay itself. You, your angelic friend Lua and party of up to 3 Astrals will travel from dungeon to dungeon referred to as layers, investigating strange occurrences, uncovering loot, solving puzzles and capturing Astrals.
The capturing of Astrals is one of the key aspects of the game which can be done using an angelic gun called Gangour. As The Chosen One you’re the only person on Earth capable of wielding Gangour to capture all those who oppose you. Capturing Astrals is done by shooting Gangour with angelic bullets called Astral Burst, Burst Bullets also provide various perks and buffs along with their elemental alignment which effects everyone in play. One bullet may grant HP restoration for your team, but also all the Astrals you’re against, one may hit several times for lower damage and no buffs. Hell, if you are game enough to roll the dice one will defeat everything opposing you or your entire team.
That’s great, you know the story and what you will be doing but how does it play I hear you asking. This is the part where things get tricky as the game functions perfectly fine, there were no bugs or glitches, no steep learning curves or difficulty spikes, animation styles that look great, story elements which are really intriguing and for the most part interesting character designs. However minor issues with those, barely used animation, plot elements get dropped as quickly as they get brought up and for every good character design there is literally a leg or arm with a ball attached to it.
These minor gripes are easily overlooked but one problem that can’t be overlooked is it’s painful pacing. You will regularly find your investigation grinding to a halt due to puzzles which are just maddeningly unhelpful. For instance, one clue mentioned to seek out a record store before continuing only for the game to have no official record store. I stumbled upon a store front which matched every other store front in the map where I was told by an NPC that this was indeed the record store. Another clue mentioned that I would need to go and find an illusion door in a room which was fine as illusion doors had been a big part of the several floors in the dungeon so far. After trying every wall in every room, I found the illusion door hidden away in a corridor near zero rooms. Other times clues will tell you exactly what to do when it is something as simple as pushing a button in a correct order, what order you may ask the game doesn’t tell you.
Other dungeons have pitfalls and every floor needs to load, so that means you fall, load, find the staircase to get back up, load, fall down a new pitfall, load, find the staircase to get back up, load. Some of the dungeons need you to fall multiple pitfalls to transition you to different spaces on the underground map to move around unlocking doors.
Some of the investigations (I say some, but I mean all of) require you to track down an Astral causing a disturbance, you go to the location, you to talk everybody on the map then go to the locations layer where the Astral can be anywhere in the dungeon. You are rarely given a more precise location than “They must be in that layer.” They also do not show up on your map, so you will need to get your investigation cap on and start exploring room after room.
So, should you play this game? You can do a lot worse than The Lost Child but the genre has so many well-made games that any will be contending against titans. If you need a dungeon crawling fix involving the use of angelic guns to shoot Cthulu pick it up during a sale otherwise I’d give it a miss.