This is a hard review to write, not because the game is bad or anything…just finding it hard to word my experience with this. Let’s start at the beginning, I stumbled across this title while reading an article on it where someone playing described how it made them feel uncomfortable playing it. All I had known was that the game takes place entirely in a smartphone that you discover, I stopped reading it when I read the reviewers discomfort with it and decided to reach out. I wrote into the developers (Accidental Queen) and told them I would be interested in reviewing for our site, as we know I generally appreciate “different” gaming experiences and this seemed like a fit. They were generous enough to oblige. So let’s get into it!
To understand the story, we need to go back to this past January when a group of friends with complementary skills, Elizabeth, Rafael, Estelle and Diane, participated in the Global Game Jam, an annual and international event of video game creation, in teams, in 48 hours. Combining talents in writing, game design, graphic design and programming, they created “A Normal Lost Phone”, a narrative investigation game, with a simple story but a deep message.
Through the interface of a mobile phone, the player must discover what happened to its owner, Sam. Digging through secrets scattered among apps, text messages and photo galleries, the player-voyeur starts witnessing the emotions of Sam, and behind the apparent light-heartedness of a teenage story, their questioning on coming of age, homophobia, depression and the search of oneself.
This game can easily be described as a twist on other great story telling games like Gone Home, or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. It’s clearly designed to tell a story as it’s primary goal, but make you go through some effort to find out the whole story. You can read through the text messages, e-mails, calendar, etc. But certain aspects you are locked out of unless you can piece together the solutions, such as the towns wifi password, or the password for the dating application on the phone. I don’t want to give too much of the story away because I hope some of you experience it for yourself.
The game is available on PC as well as Android/iOS but I can’t imagine playing it on a PC. On mobile the game basically skins your phone so it’s like you are really experiencing the story of having Sams phone in your hand. There is some music playing in the background but after a little while I did turn that off because I found it took away from the experience for myself.
As you navigate through the story you learn more and more about Sam as he is turning 18 and dealing with life in general. A 3-year relationship with his girlfriend, a group of new found friends, and even some of the sadness you can feel through his interactions with folks on his dating app. You can scroll through his photos on his phone as well as some that he had posted during an event that takes place during our story.
The game is very ballsy in the fact that it tackles some issues we don’t see represented in video games properly very often. LGBTQ storylines, depression, and just general feeling of self-loathing and confusion. It seems the only time the character Sam is ever happy is when he is involved in creating music. I won’t give anything else away as I think it deserves to be highlighted, with the general flood of apps and games we see hit our phones this is a rare gem that I don’t think should be overlooked. While not a terribly long experience, I was able to get through it in about 1hr and a half (depends on how quickly you read and can decipher clues) I think the storytelling is some of the best I’ve seen in these types of games. I cannot wait to see what they can come up with next, as they clearly deserve our attention.
A Normal Lost Phone was reviewed using a Google Play code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.