Originally published on Trevor Trove on February 10, 2017
TL; DR(eview) – A Normal Lost Phone presents a delightful coming-of-age story, told through the conceit of searching through someone’s phone to discover their tale.
A Normal Lost Phone by Accidental Queens is available on Steam, but the only real way to play it is on your mobile device. The app opens and gives the appearance of…a normal lost phone, complete with its own apps.
The game starts off with a notification: “You received 4 new messages from Dad!” This led me to read through the text exchanges between the phone’s owner and father and start piecing together what might have happened to Sam, the aforementioned owner of the phone. Accidental Queens smartly limits available functionality. The phone is pre-paid, and has run out of minutes and data so you can’t call anybody or send any texts. But there’s a Wi-Fi connection saved, you just need to find the password. Reading through the various message threads reveals that the new phone was only purchased a couple months ago (with the game clock setting the events on January 31, 2016 at 10pm).
Reading through the text messages gives a bit of an intentionally voyeuristic sense to the game. You’re knowingly prying into this person’s life to try and figure out what happened and why they left their phone behind. Many of the message threads are meaningless but portray an accurate representation of what you might see in a phone. On December 1, 2015 (at 7:01PM), for example, Sam sent out a mass text saying “I have a new phone! Now you have my new number! Sam.” And a handful of the message threads basically are limited to that and a polite thank you message from the recipient. Other threads though, start to provide a lot more insight into Sam’s story and the game does a great job of trying to direct you to the right places to “progress through the story.” Those first messages from Dad are wondering where Sam is but scrolling up introduces the notion of a girlfriend Melissa into the narrative. So that might lead you to read through the texts between Sam and Melissa. And those texts, while providing plenty more backstory, mention another friend asking for the Wi-Fi password. So you can investigate those messages for the clues needed to connect to the Wi-Fi and unlock more of the phone’s functionality, like Sam’s email, web browser, or dating app. But even something like the dating app will require a password. Fortunately, the game again does a pretty good job of indicating the kinds of things Sam might use for a password.
It probably only took me an hour or so to really play through the entire story, but the story definitely took some interesting turns that I wasn’t suspecting and wouldn’t want to ruin here. I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded, in large part because of what a unique new approach (to me anyway) it presented. By the end of it, I appreciated the sense of having been in Sam’s shoes, even if only for a few moments. So much so that my initial pronouns in this review were talking about getting texts from your dad, instead of Sam’s.
At only $3, I think A Normal Lost Phone is well worth the asking price, if for nothing else than because it makes for a nice diversion that tells an interesting story on through your phone.