A Normal Lost Phone Review
A Normal Lost Phone is a mobile game that seeks to further the legacy of games like Gone Home by weaving together an inspired, short, and moving story. A Normal Lost Phone has a lot of promise, but ultimately it falls far short of it's goal, due to it's repetitive and ultimately unoriginal story.
A Normal Lost Phone offers something new and altogether different with it's premise. The game at it's basic level is that of someone discovering a phone and having to unravel the mystery of what happened to it's owner. Smart, clever, and full of mysteries the game is also a perfect length, taking no more then 90 minutes to finish up it's story
Lost Phone very quickly offers up an air of intrigue and tension as to what exactly is going on and what happened to Sam, the phones owner. Exploring a wealth of pressing modern day topics, Lost Phone weaves a passionate and personal tale of one individuals journey through sex, family, and the simple struggles of being a teenager. Indeed, A Lost Phone is at it's unquestioned best when it focuses on the daily trials and tribulations of being a teenager in todays world. It tackles unquestionably powerful stuff and seeks to leave behind the same immense high as games like Gone Home, a game that very clearly influenced it.
The problem, is that it's not very interesting. A major part of what made Gone Home special was the mystery, the question of what happened in the abandoned house. That sense of exploration and discovery that lay at the heart of Gone Home and indeed most "walking simulators" is nowhere to be found in this game. In A Normal Lost Phone no attention seems to be paid to that sense of mystery and the search for answers. Within minutes of starting up the game, I knew the direction and broad strokes of Lost Phone. This not only crippled my interest in the game, but it also unnecessarily drained the game of tension, mystery, and pacing. There was no sense of urgency, no strong pull to figure out just what the hell was happening because I already largely knew the answer.
This is a game not about figuring out what went wrong and intent on brilliantly subverting our expectations of many different genres and games, like Gone Home before it. Instead, it's a game intent on telling it's moving story. The makers of a Normal Lost Phone pay no heed to such things as adventure, discovery, and heart-pounding tension, all of those things helped to make Gone Home the standout title it is, here they are discarded shockingly early on so that the developers can laser focus in on their bold story.
There is nothing wrong in that at all. It is quite a story, but one we have largely already heard before. From Emily is Away, to Her Story, to finally Gone Home itself, Lost Phone mostly walks in the path others have already blazed. All of this is a great shame for their is something special behind Lost Phone, it's just buried by uninspired gameplay and a meandering story that blows through all of it's surprises in the first ten minutes.
That said the actual interface and mechanics of the entire game taking place inside of a phone are brilliantly realized. From listening to Sam's(excellent) catalogue of music, to navigating his emails, texts, and online profiles, Lost Phone taps into our familiarity with phones and social media to unravel the mystery at it's core. It's made even stronger by how realistic and true the phone's interface actually is, from a design perspective Lost Phone easily soars.
Short, important, boring, disappointing, and ultimately lacking the spark of greatness, A Normal Lost Phone is a game that should have stood tall as a standout title for early 2017. It should have succeeded other like-minded games as a title willing to tackle and confront preconceived notions on being a teenager, family dynamics, and the relationships of our youth. Instead, it both simultaneously is too much of a walking simulator clone and at the same time learns none of the lessons of what made those games special. In the end, A Normal Lost Phone is a game you'll play, enjoy slightly, and then forget soon after you walk away from it and what a sorry legacy that is for a game that seeks to tell such an important story.