Early in January 2017, developer Accidental Queens released A Normal Lost Phone. It was a game that placed players in the position of finding someone’s lost smart phone and immersed them by emulating the interface of that same phone, complete with the personal messages and contacts one would expect.
Having never played something like it, I was excited about the possibilities, especially for a game that sought to tell a personal story through the virtual closet that is one’s cell phone.
In the end, I found the game to have some candid moments and pieces where they realized the potential of that framing device, but I also thought there was ultimately too much content to sift through and it just felt way too invasive for me. Without getting into spoilers, I will just say it’s a story about one discovering their identity, and I felt like I had no right to know what I found out about that person. Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra wrote a great spoiler filled piece on the subject.
Now, in a surprising turnaround of eight months, Accidental Queens has released a follow-up in the form of Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story. It’s a game that I have found to be tighter, both in terms of content and its critical path, but the most striking element of it is that this story is not necessarily a better one to be told than the one in A Normal Lost Phone, but it’s one that is better suited for this framework.
The setup is the same. The phone is unlocked. You get a notification that there are some unread messages.
“I tried to call you on your work phone, but the line’s dead. I don’t know what to do.”
“LAURA, WHERE ARE YOU??!!”
It’s those types of messages that motivate you to keep looking through Laura’s phone, as your mind begins to swirl.
You might wonder, “Was this person supposed to be somewhere?”
“Can I drop this off at their work?”
The mystery is interesting enough that you dig beyond the surface, just a bit. You start looking at other conversations, try to connect the phone to Wi-Fi, and try to make a phone call only to realize the phone’s SIM card is missing.
It’s when you begin to look at Laura’s photographs and conversations with her significant other that the invasive nature of the game really begins to seep in, but this is also around the same time when the game’s true nature begins to reveal itself. Unlike A Normal Lost Phone, you get to a point in Another Lost Phone where you get this feeling that you should be snooping around. It’s an unshakable feeling that tells you that someone might need help, a feeling strong enough to push you to the end.
Solving the mystery will have you remembering contacts in the phone and piecing together details in photographs to get access to LinkedIn messages or cloud storage accounts which will tell the entire story.
Another Lost Phone balances just how much of this detective work you must do and how much information it serves to you; it’s a balance I felt was missing from A Normal Lost Phone, which was filled with long text message threads that didn’t maintain my attention and were hard to discern important information from. This does lead to a game that feels a bit short, but for the time it does stick around, it’s enthralling.
The conversations in Another Lost Phone read as genuine and naturally switch in tone depending on the person or situation and vary from humorous to absolutely terrifying. While our actual phones might be a library’s worth of texts, Another Lost Phonedecided to forgo replicating this for the sequel, and it has lead to a more digestible story with a satisfying conclusion.
In the interest of not giving away too much, I will keep the details vague, but the heart of Another Lost Phone is a story about a very real issue that has affected and continues to affect many people. My own family was affected by the issue in question in the past and continues to recover from it. Another Lost Phonedoesn’t dramatize this type of story to get a point across or to get a reaction out of players. Through its writing and design, it does right by the subject matter and the stories of people who aren’t too dissimilar from that of Laura’s.
Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story is a very different story than the one found in its predecessor, both of which have something meaningful to say. In the end, I think Another Lost Phone goes about delivering a message and story in a more cohesive, comfortable, and enjoyable way. It has caused me to seriously reflect on my own experiences, and it met my hopes set upon discovering the original A Normal Lost Phone.
This review is based on a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer and was reviewed on Android hardware.