Doing the right thing?
People lose phones; it’s a fact of life in modern society. Even though many of us (including myself, to Jennifer’s chagrin) are connected to our devices with a death grip, it still happens. They get misplaced, set down and forgotten, or even accidentally left on a table at IHOP.
More often, and especially for iPhone owners, the screen just gets shattered rather than the phone getting lost, but it does happen. Come to think of it, that would’ve been a nice touch. A little crack in the screen somewhere… But I digress.
The wisest of users put passwords on their phones, or even have location services set up to allow them to find their phone in the case that the phone does get lost. Sometimes people just get lucky and a nice waitress runs out to flag down someone that lost their phone. It happens.
Part of the trouble of finding a lost phone is just that though. They’re often password protected, and even if you’re able to get into the phone, it isn’t always easy to get the phone back to the owner. That’s the jist of what A Normal Lost Phone is about. You found a phone, and you’re trying to figure out who the owner is, so you can give it back.
Playing A Normal Lost Phone was a treat for me, because I adore puzzle games, and I do love a little snooping. In a way, you act as a detective, trying to finagle your way around the different accounts on the owner’s phone to find any information that might give you an idea about who they are. The interface function much like a phone’s interface, though the controls aren’t perfectly laid out. I did find myself instinctively hitting the Back button to move back to the previous screen, only to find that it did nothing in many cases. The workaround, of course, is to hit the Home button.
As you make progress, you’ll need to find your own way. You aren’t given direct objectives, only obstacles. It’s an interesting approach, especially since many games these days give you distinct instructions in order to complete your objectives. Hell, even the end of the game is only hinted at, but I won’t spoil the solution for you.
You just need to use a little critical thinking, and crack some stupendously weak passwords. I do understand that the developers didn’t want to make it necessary to have a background in cybersecurity or hacking to crack each password, but the owner’s passwords are laughable at best. Then again, we as humans as a majority don’t exactly use secure passwords for anything… Perhaps that’s an unintentional commentary on our lax security?
One thing I will commend the developers on, is that they did a wonderful job making an interface that functions rather similarly to a mobile phone. It isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. However, it’s close enough to the real deal that just about anyone could handle the controls without the need for a tutorial. Also, the developers did a wonderful job with A Normal Lost Phone in regards to not holding the player’s hand, but also not making it impossible to discern what the objectives are.
As you can tell, the design of A Normal Lost Phone follows many of the UI designs of modern mobile phones. There are many icons that are clearly marked, though I will say it’s rather unlikely that a teenager’s phone wouldn’t have Snapchat on it. In fact, in today’s world, it’s unlikely that a teenager would use standard text messages or emails to communicate at all, in lieu of Snapchat. Then again, I suppose the developers didn’t want to foot the bill to get Snapchat’s permission to feature their app.
Maybe I should stay on topic?
I do enjoy the visuals presented, and there are plenty of original songs featured in the game itself, including the ability to sift through the music itself at your own volition. After all, since you’re rooting through someone else’s phone, you’re able to just play the playlist of music they’ve downloaded, including some unique music from the phone’s owner as well. Though you’ll need to browse through the owner’s emails to find those tracks. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the game features the best music I’ve ever heard, but it’s still good, and I love the approach that the developer took when designing the method of playback. Also worth noting is that you’re able to download the soundtrack if you’d like on Bandcamp as well.
I think where A Normal Lost Phone stands out is in the developer’s design choices. It’s clear that they wanted the game to function much in the same way that a standard mobile phone would, but also tell a meaningful story through the medium. It isn’t common to find a puzzle game on the marketplace that features interesting mechanics and a story that isn’t just a justification for the puzzles themselves. A Normal Lost Phone accomplishes that with ease, and it’s worth checking out for that reason alone. Sure, the puzzles themselves aren’t remarkably difficult, but it isn’t cracking the passwords that proves to be the true puzzle; it’s knowing where to look next in order to make progress.
A Normal Lost Phone‘s story revolves around you trying to determine who the owner of the phone is, with the intention of returning it. That makes you a good person, and you should be proud of that! Good job! Also, even the subject of the story itself admits that the phone isn’t the greatest piece of tech, so I don’t think the phone you’ve found is all that valuable. Shame on you for thinking about the value of the phone over getting it back to the owner!
Anyways, the owner of the phone is named Sam, and your task isn’t cut-and-dried. In order to progress through the story, you’ll need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs that aren’t laid out plainly for you. You just need to snoop. You find an obstacle, then you look for clues to get past that obstacle. As you move along, you’ll learn more and more about who Sam is, leading up to a conclusion that I can’t tell if I expected it or not. I won’t spoil anything here, because I feel like plot details on any type are integral to the gameplay in many ways, but I did find the story to be interesting to say the least, if not mildly concerning.
WILDCARD: TOUGH TOPICS
I won’t cover too much about the story here, just as I noted above, but I do want to call out that A Normal Lost Phone isn’t as simple as it would seem on the surface. Sam’s story isn’t a happy tale, though I suppose it ends in a manner that suits Sam’s desires. I will say that I find some of Sam’s decision’s questionable at best, but I’m certainly not an authority on issues like the one Sam is facing. If anything, I just wouldn’t liked to see Sam reach out more, and perhaps that actually happened outside of phone conversations, but I get the feeling that Sam didn’t do much to keep loved ones in the loop.
So I find it concerning at the very least. The end result is about what I expected, though I find Sam’s final decision to be hasty. Maybe you’ll agree, maybe not. Either is okay with me. I’d love to discuss it more, though I don’t want to get into it here in this review, as I don’t want to ruin anything. It might be a conversation better left for Falcon Game Review’s Discord channels.
I have to say that I’m glad Brad from Cheap Boss Attack recommended A Normal Lost Phone to me. I do love me a good puzzle game, and this proved to be right up my alley. It’s a short little game, but it’s worth a look at least, especially if you’re looking for a quick game to play.
That said, my only complaint is that I feel like I should’ve purchased it on my phone or PC instead of my Nintendo Switch. The console version is double the price of the game on other platforms, and the controls aren’t exactly the best on the Switch, not to mention that playing it on the switch makes it look like you’re holding a gigantic phone.
Still, even though I believe I overpaid for the Switch version, and the path of the story left me with a worried feeling regarding the subject’s actions, I feel that it’s worth looking into.
There’s also another game from the same developers called Another Lost Phone.
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