When a game does well, you’re gonna see clones. That’s just how things are. Some of those clones are more similar to their source material than others – Digimon and Pokémon are pretty obviously related, for instance. Some are less so – you might not expect Final Fantasy XIII-2 to have Pokémon influences, but it’s there. Some games, though, just launch off in a weird direction altogether and end up feeling pretty unique as a result. Case in point: The Lost Child.
Hayato Ibuki was just a regular ol’ photojournalist trying to make a living by working for an occult magazine. That all changed when he got drawn into the occult himself; the angel Lua (or at least she says she’s an angel) tells Hayato that he’s the Chosen One, destined to wield the magical gun Gangour. This weapon allows Hayato to capture, purify and control Astrals, essentially allowing him to catch ’em all in this battle between Heaven and Hell.
If you’ve played a Shin Megami Tensei game then you know how this works for the most part. You’ll explore dungeons in the first person, get into battles, capture your choice of baddies using the Gangour and thereby assemble a crack team of Astral companions. Astrals can level up, evolve and change form, learn new moves and do pretty much everything your classic Pocket Monsters can do. The Lost Child’s basic gameplay is fairly standard; most of the differences in how things work turn out to be just differently-named takes on familiar concepts (“levhell” instead of level and so on.)
The biggest difference is that The Lost Child leans really heavily on Lovecraftian influences, which is a new take on the concept so far as I am aware. That applies to the monsters, the plot and the game as a whole. I love me a little Cthulhu so there’s no complaints here. In a bizarre twist, this is actually a sort of spiritual successor to trippy cult character-action game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, so familiar characters from that title show up and play important roles here. I can’t say I was expecting to play a sequel to El Shaddai at any point, much less that it would be a first-person dungeon crawler with Pokémon influences.
This all means that The Lost Child’s presentation might also be the best aspect of the game. I absolutely adored finding new monsters because of how interesting and bizarre the designs tend to be; there’s also worthwhile text blurbs to check out once you’ve caught them. The whole creepy-cool appeal really works for this one.
If you can deal with the fact that it’s very much an old-school dungeon crawler, there’s a lot to love with The Lost Child. In particular, this sort of game fits really well on Switch, as you’d expect from the proliferation of dungeon crawlers that ended up on the PSP. I’d suggest that platform if you’ve got a choice; pick it up and enjoy fighting your way through hordes of extradimensional baddies.