Human sexuality has always been a bit of a sensitive subject.
It may have something to do with people’s idea of what’s right and what’s wrong. In many cases, people believe that heterosexuality is the only real kind that there is or should be. Honestly though, it’s much more complicated than that; there’s a vast spectrum that a person’s sexuality and gender identity can fall under. A person could be bisexual, asexual, pansexual; they could be gender-nonconforming, gender non-binary and many more shapes and sizes and combinations that I myself am probably not educated enough on to discuss. The point is; sometimes things aren’t as easy as ABC.
A Normal Lost Phone, a game from developer Accidental Queens, tells the story of a phone found by an unknown person (i.e. you) as they try to figure out what kind of person owns the phone and what secrets might be found within. The entirety of the game is set within the phone as you poke around, trying to figure out passwords and clues to unravel the mystery. The end-game of the person poking around on the phone is unknown; perhaps they intend to find the owner and return the phone? Or maybe they just enjoy poking around in other people’s business, it’s up to you to find out.
Without spoiling much of the story, as A Normal Lost Phone is all about discovering the story for yourself, I will say that much of the game is related to sexuality and gender and understanding the intense complexities involved with it. By going through text messages, emails and dating app messages, you’re able to slowly piece together the kind of person the phone owner is while stumbling through what issues they were going through before losing/ditching their phone. Figuring out the few puzzles isn’t always as easy as reading through text messages; you might have to go a couple of places to really find out the answer you’re looking for.
The whole concept of A Normal Lost Phone, a game where you spend the entire game simply poking around on a phone for clues, is a very clever and innovative idea. Especially in today’s world where we spend much of our lives entwined with technology, it’s become more and more obvious after playing this game that, for most of us, it’s possible to discover and deduce so much about us by simply going through our phone’s pictures, messages and emails. Because of the type of gameplay, A Normal Lost Phone doesn’t really have a linear beginning, middle, and end – it is what you make of it. With a strong Her Story vibe, the game does a brilliant job of representing how easily our personal identity can be discovered just by searching through a few files on a small device.
Other than its brilliant storytelling, the biggest accomplishments of A Normal Lost Phone are its art style and soundtrack. The art of the game makes me think of the cartoon Steven Universe if it were painted by hand. Almost all of the photos found inside the phone feature people in the phone owner’s life and each character seems to have been given a lot of attention. Even most of the contacts have their own character portraits. There’s definitely been a lot of detail put into all of the art choices for the game. A Normal Lost Phone’s soundtrack – music files found on the phone – features several indie tracks that sound like they might be featured on the “Indie Chill” playlist on Spotify. The acoustic tracks add a very relaxing tone to the game and make for a wonderfully calming atmosphere.
Looking past what A Normal Lost Phone does well – and there are many things – it still isn’t without its flaws. I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t gotten stuck for a very long time each time I came across a password that I had to figure out. I read through every text message, every email, over-analysed every photo and it was still quite difficult to figure out the passwords. Of course, this is the point of a puzzle game, the struggle to get to the end, but when the first password is just as difficult to figure out as the rest, some players may get so frustrated that they leave before getting invested into the story. It’d have been better if the puzzles had started out a little simpler, easing the player into it to give them chance to realise it’s worth continuing with.
A Normal Lost Phone is a game with a really brilliant concept. It covers complicated, sensitive topics which, in many ways, is a bold and brave thing to do in today’s world. The puzzle elements can be a bit frustrating, but in the end, the whole package is very well done. Fans of Her Story will definitely appreciate it, and I think – I hope – that the reception of it will be a positive one.