It’s rare that a game manages to genuinely keep me enthralled from the get-go, but A Normal Lost Phone did just that. A lot of effort and care was clearly put into it, and the outcome was an experience that kept me glued to the screen after I booted it up.
A Normal Lost Phone simulates an ordinary phone, the type one could find lost by the side of a road. And find it one does, at which point one starts to noisily mess around with it as one’s wont to do. As the game never gives you an objective, it basically acts as a storytelling format framed within a puzzle / investigative setting as you browse through the owner’s emails, text messages, and gallery in an effort to find out what happened to them. That may sound quite voyeuristic and intrusive to some, but it is a game; it never presented itself as “Good Citizen Finds Mobile Simulator 2017”, and there is not much gameplay to be had around “calling owner and letting him know his phone was found”.
Through the course of your investigations, you discover the game’s subject matter orbits around the the LGBT community and the struggle of those within it. Such a touchy subject could be disastrous if done badly, but A Normal Lost Phone tackles it in quite respectful and educational manner. The game’s effort to explain the basic facets of transgender reality - something I’m particularly unaware of - was a very interesting read, and at no point did it seem inappropriate or tacky. As a white straight man, my contact with the non-heterosexual world was only via semi-proxy through gay friends; I’m hardly a newcomer when it comes to LGBT issues and culture, but I’m far from an expert, either.
A Normal Lost Phone’s plot is short and predictable, and that’s the title’s only negative aspect. It took me little over an hour to finish it, and I must say it left me unsatisfied; the finale is not compelling or enticing, and it’s delivered so unceremoniously that it removes any hint of fulfillment from an otherwise delightful little game. I feel a bit more care and quality could had been given to the narrative, instead of solely to the subject matter.
The graphics and interface do a good job of simulating a standard non-descript smartphone operating system, and should be immediately accessible to anyone familiar with today’s devices. The controls are intuitive and responsive, and aside from the inability to type addresses in the web browser, the in-game device behaves quite like a real one.
The sound effects are spartan, working wonderfully and fulfilling their purpose, but the music is where the audio really shines. A selection of tracks are included within the game, simulating a teenager’s library, and they are all accessed via the Media Player app. Upon the game’s first launch, however, a couple of tracks start automatically playing - disrupting the immersion of this being a phone and not a game - but adding some much needed ambiance. Those tracks’ lovely tunes flawlessly contribute to making you feel comfortable with the game, and the end result absolutely enraptures you.
A Normal Lost Phone is a delightful game, and makes brilliant use of mobile platform’s most fitting genre: choice-based narratives. I must warn you, however, that this is not something to be played on the Tube; instead, it should be played at home on a nice evening, as you lay warm and cozy on a couch and explore this little shard of a stranger’s personal life. Treat it as a game instead of a privacy commentary, and you will have a wonderful time.
A Normal Lost Phone (Reviewed on Android)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A delightful game that touches upon non-mainstream topics while making great use of the mobile platform's strengths.