A Normal Lost Phone
[Note: Please be aware that this game deals with subject matter some may find upsetting.]
A Normal Lost Phone might possibly be the most immediately suspicious thing to call a phone, but here it's the title of this intriguing interactive narrative, created by the team calling themselves Accidental Queens for Global Game Jam 2016 in France, where you must try to figure out what happened to the phone's owner, a young man named Sam. You interact with the phone as you would any smart device, by clicking on icons and dragging the screen to scroll, and you'll need to search through old messages, calendar events, and more to find out the truth, as well as how to unlock certain functions. A Normal Lost Phone is largely a simple, personal narrative that will connect more with some than others, but one told in a creative way.
With its simple presentation and app-based mechanics, A Normal Lost Phone feels very authentic, like working your way through a real device, albeit one with a lovely watercolour design scheme. The downside is A Normal Lost Phone might be a bit too much like An Actual Normal Phone. It's cluttered with meaningless conversations and a long list of contacts, many of them nothing to impart, so that initially clicking your way through all of it can feel like a chore. Paring it down and streamlining it a bit may have lost a bit of that authentic feel, but it also may have resulted in a more user-friendly, gripping experience from a gameplay perspective. While this, combined with a somewhat awkward English translation, may mean the game won't hook everyone it could, players who like ferreting out pieces of the story on their own will enjoy digging their way through Sam's life to find out what happened to him. It's not as complex as you might hope, both as a puzzle game and a story, but clues and changing relationships are strung throughout text logs, photos, and calendar events in a way that keeps you hooked. The big reveal might be a little predictable for some, in a way both big and simple, and others may find it hits close to home, while still others might find certain messages and events a little too negative in a way that is often represented as a frustrating trend in pop culture... though that depends on how you interpret the ending. Which, speaking of, is mostly a matter of unlocking something last to read, so don't expect any significant resolution. While some aspects could have been implemented or handled differently, A Normal Lost Phone is a simple story with a few puzzle elements woven throughout to make it a unique experience.