Imagine finding a lost phone. For some reason, it doesn’t have an elaborate locking pattern/weird security contraption on it. Instead, there’s a whole bunch of personal messages and images laid out, waiting to be glanced upon by total strangers. What do you do?
Chances are, if you’re like me, you freak out a bit and then attempt to return it by contacting the phone owner’s relatives. But that’s not exactly exciting, is it? What if there was a game which presented a safe haven for sneakily rummaging through a total stranger’s dirty secrets? Dear readers, I present you A Normal Lost Phone.
It’s a game that currently resides on Ulule, which is, at least to me, a somewhat unknown crowdfunding platform with some rather great projects. Luckily, since the game started out as an entry for 2016’s Global Game Jam, there is already a playable build available right here. Even better – it can be picked up (get it?) by pretty much anyone used to operating a smartphone, as you have your list of apps, including a text messaging one, a calculator, a calendar and a dating client. From then on, all you need to do is read through lots and lots of text, piecing things together whilst a story slowly unfolds.
The idea for such a game certainly isn’t novel, with Her Story already taking a similar concept and smashing it with a genius sense of narrative freedom and intuitive visual design. Yet, such types of games also tend to be entirely driven by their story, and A Normal Lost Phone certainly managed to keep me interested in the way it unfolds its secrets.
Not being afraid to tackle topics regarding sexuality and depression, the writing is commendable, albeit a bit forced in some areas. More importantly though, there’s a constant sense of curiosity that emerges out of looking at a person’s texts, as you find yourself reading through each line, slowly seeing through the cracks of the phone owner’s persona.
All in all, A Normal Lost Phone’s concept is pretty simple. Perhaps it’s precisely that no-frills design that gave me the impression of a well thought-out narrative experience that could safely see the light at the end of the crowdfunding tunnel. With that being said, the game’s Ulule campaign currently sits at 54%, with 14 days left and about $6,000 funded out of $11,112.