So, what would you have done if you lost your phone? I usually freak out when I don’t know where the bloody thing is, which happens about 3 times a day at least. These desperate times are short-lived, thankfully, as it often turns out it is either in my pocket, on the table, or in the worst case scenario, my better half can easily point me in the direction I last put it. Why am I, and possibly you as well, so addicted to this little device? Because it contains information or content important to the owner, it is your main device for communication and is thus more than just a personal computer. So because you are a decent person, you wouldn’t want anyone to lose their phone or have it in the wrong hands, right? This is where the concept of A Normal Lost Phone comes into play.
A Normal Lost Phone turns your actual phone (or the system you play it on) into someone else’s phone, complete with unique icons, pictures, and messages to read. Your goal is honestly simple: try to figure out who the owner is and, if possible, how to reach him. This is done by actually going through the owner’s private life by reading messages, checking pictures and outright hack your way to information.
Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, you will gather as much info about the owner as possible from different pieces, soon realize something is not right, and when the ending comes, see the complete picture. Because the sole point of the game is to actually unravel the story and connect the dots, I have an incredibly hard time summarizing the story without spoiling it, so excuse the vague description. What I can say, is that the story feels genuine and real. You read the messages of one young person, see how his life develops, the people he/she comes across, and their relationships. It is harsh and, honestly, heartbreaking at times, with written dialogue being the main focus, due to you reading emails, forums, and messages, which is a clever way to make this feel authentic.
The dialogue certainly can be cringy, but fits perfectly. This has to do with everything from dad-jokes, to how teens can be emotional or new to adult concepts, giving clear reasons to this human dialogue that is not always intelligent, but sincere and honest. Nothing comes of as unbelievable, making you easily invested and actually relate to their lives. I know I can, as some of these dialogues hit (embarrassingly) close to home. While the characters contain personality, you only see parts of their lives and are only getting smaller stories about their lives that are short-lived. This is an understandable design-choice, however, as the story focuses on the main character’s life and his connection to these people.
As you piece together the pieces, you will uncover harsh truths about characters taking not necessarily the best choices. This is not because they are bad people (with one clear exception), but because they are not familiar with these subjects, and therefore struggle with what to do. Because of this, Accidental Queens has taken a great step at showcasing that everyone caught up in these unknown territories are simply humans. This really helps to relate, as A Normal Lost Phone never tries to go for shock-value or “bad vs good”, but rather shows how expectations and attitudes, can be harmful and damage one’s freedom.
Accidental Queens have been clearly legit about telling a person’s story and struggles, with believable dialogue and a focus on the owner’s connection to his friends, family, how he evolved into the person he wants to be. It is definitively cringy at times, but this is rather a design-choice that is used to make the story feel legit, which I am all for.
Story Score: 9/10
Devices are puzzles themselves
We can certainly call this a point and click, as your goal is to touch apps and piece together clues to not just assemble the story, but also figure out passwords or what your next step should be. It is quite subtle at times with its hints, forcing you to pay attention, but while it can be difficult to figure out the solutions at first, none are complete guessing games. There are even some smart ones, involving finding the right photos. However, a pen and paper to pin down the most important hints is recommended.
The game is not just filled with fun puzzles, which makes you focus more on the story, but also makes the whole experience feel authentic because you have to look into apps and read messages, just like a real phone. Because of this, you will get invested easily, especially since the puzzles are subtle hints that never become bizarre. Sadly, there is a running theme of finding passwords and the difficulty only increases slightly. The game at least masks the reasons for why you can’t contact others through messages, but through the web browser, it is not explained well at all, which does take you out of the experience. However, the puzzles always elevated to keep me interested and are fun, even if they could use more variety. A better reason for not using the internet to its fullest, would have helped as well, but it is still hard to not feel invested or immersed for all the right reasons.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
Authenticity with a cute twist
This is definitely a unique phone as, while it has all the important apps such as for messages, email, weather, music, and so on, it certainly does not resemble the looks of other devices on the market. This is not a bad take on it though, as the vibrant and colorful approach, captures subtly the theme behind the game, and makes it more pleasing to the eye and rather, intriguing. It is not just the backgrounds or the apps, but the pictures are wonderful drawings of different characters that are diverse and colorful, and while the upper and lower menu feels not as strong visually and more blurry, the game consistently looks lovely and the art is something to admire. I do wish it felt a bit smoother or more interactive, such as simple pulsating when highlighting an icon, but it is not enough to stop you from wanting to see what juicy stuff is within this phone.
As for the soundtrack, it is cleverly made available through the music-player app and contains a good variety of songs that neatly fit in and subtly show what character you are getting to know, which is a smart inclusion. The soundtrack contains chill, guitar-songs, instrumental, punk and more, making it fit the young owner’s taste. It is memorable, and easy on the ears. I just wish I could have a time-bar for the songs just for that extra authenticity, but the soundtrack is overall diverse, pleasing, and some tracks are definitely worth considering actually adding to your own phone.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
What is the best part about this whole experience, is how real it all feels. A Normal Lost Phone wants to tell a legit story through an interesting medium, and I love how far it goes to make the experience as authentic and personal as possible. It is also an important showcase for how mobile-phone games can not just work, but exceed on this device, and since it is so easily available, it is an important title that I recommend to the general audience. There is a reason for why this title got on my list of My Favourite Games of 2017.