I admit, I have been on a kick for less traditional gameplay recently. After Event, I played Firewatch and really enjoyed it. I have also been eyeing Adr1ft and Sara is Missing. Last week, on a whim, I picked up A Normal Lost Phone since it was on sale for only $0.20, and in a nutshell, I didn’t get my money’s worth.
A Normal Lost Phone started as a Global Game Jam 2016 project that was crowdfunded for a full release in January of 2017. The France-based developer Accidental Queens summarize the game as: “…a game about exploriong the intimacy of an unknown person whose phone was found by the player.” Instead, I found it hard to call this a “game” at all. The gameplay, what little there is, is comprised of reading through texts, emails, and forum posts to learn more about the owner of the phone you found.
I found it hard to get emotionally invested in any of the characters involved with the phone’s owner, Sam. there was none of the voyeuristic thrill the devs clearly meant to be the main source of entertainment for their game.
Spoilers in this paragraph. Skip this one if you think this “game” is for you.
Accidental Queens say that, ” behind the apparent light-heartedness of a teenage story, [the player witnesses Sam’s] questioning on coming of age, homophobia, depression or the search of oneself.” While I wasn’t expecting a mobile app to have character development on par with Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, the characters were so one-dimensional that they almost seemed parodies of the roles they played: “extremely understanding internet stranger”, “outraged onetime significant other”, and “friend who is oblivious” all make appearances as well as “super strict conservative parents”.
No more spoilers from here on out. The original soundtrack is available on Bandcamp, but wasn’t really my style. Even having a soundtrack doesn’t extend the length of this game. You seriously can complete all the activities in around 30 minutes. There is also absolutely ZERO replay value. There is only one narrative and a linear path to the end of the game. The developers also realize that their puzzles aren’t the clearest and provide a link to a clue based and an explicit “do this” style walkthrough in the Android store description for the game.
Overall, I was disappointed with A Normal Lost Phone. With underwhelming gameplay, a lackluster soundtrack, flat characters, and zero replay value i really can’t recommend this one. A neat concept to explore? Maybe, but this should have stayed a freebie.