What would you do if you found a phone? Would you erase the contents and use it as your own? Would you try to find its owner? But what if doing so meant getting to know them, to discover their stories? How far would you go? This is the question A Normal Lost Phone asks.
Developer Accidental Queens
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Release Date: Jan 2017
Played Main Story
Platforms: PC, iOS, Android
A Normal Lost Phone has a simple premise, one shared with the growing number of “found mobiles” genre of gaming. You pick up an abandoned mobile phone and manage to unlock it. Inside are chat threads, emails, galleries and music, some of them readily available and others behind different layers of security, which you must break to learn everything
A Normal Lost Phone gives you Sam’s phone, a simple and kind young man with a conservative family. He has friends, a loving girlfriend, goes to school and is in a book club and a board game club. Sounds like your average geeky guy from some part of the world. But that’s just the first layer, what you get at face value with A Normal Lost Phone.
It doesn’t take much to discover that some of these things are facades, meant to hide the truth about Sam, about his identity and about the journey he undertakes to become who she really is. The messages hide the information, with vague clues pointing to events and dates you use to unlock further messages and online profiles, piecing together Sam’s true identity, her dreams and fears, not only for her self-acceptance and love, but also that of those around her, people with narrow views of the world and sometimes monstrous attitudes.
It’s a deeply personal story and one that will resonate with anyone who’s been in the same position, transitioning from the person they were told to be, the person they were born as and the one they aspire to be, the one they know feels right in their skin.
I’ve tried to be vague, playing the pronoun name, but yes, this is an LGBT-focused story, and the approach it takes is sensible and fascinating, showing you the evolution of this character, how they break through their shell while still keeping themselves safe, afraid of what would happen if their parents and close family discovered the truth.
A Normal Lost Phone’s story is great, with equal moments of sadness as there are joy-filled, told through the writing of many people, some close to Sam and others almost complete strangers. There are some conversations that feel clunky though, particularly between Sam and those closes to him, like his girlfriend. They’re not badly written, but the phrasing could use a little work to make it sound more natural.
One noteworthy thing in A Normal Lost Phone is the music, which I didn’t except. When it first played, I wondered about it, thinking it was strange that a “found mobile” video game would have an expansive soundtrack, but then I discovered it was the phone’s music app playing through Sam’s playlist, each song in a different genre and with a different mood, telling you more about the mobile’s owner, their likes and preferences. I had the fortune of having a moody track play right when I read through a very poignant email, as it enhanced the experience, even for a little bit.
Once you’re done with every discovery and know the truth about Sam’s fate, you can end it all by erasing all data, so that no one will ever know the story but you. Funnily enough, the game allows you to do this from the start, giving you an achievement if you chose to leave the story hidden and just pocket a new mobile.
But if you choose to make it through, it’s a one-way trip as there really is no need to come back, no other stories to find.
A Normal Lost Phone is a lovely game, exploring a deep personal story through the medium of a lost phone, telling you of a journey of acceptance and how even if badness surrounds you and makes you lose hope, there will always be those who will give you the support you need so you can reach your goals. It’s great stuff
4/5 – Exceptional!