App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
It seems that games that emulate mobile device interfaces are starting to become a trend. Sara is Missing is a game that takes your mobile device and turns it into the virtual phone screen of Sara, a character that you learn more about as you explore her phone. More than that though, Sara is Missing is an unexpectedly creepy game that will keep surprising you as you move through its breathlessly-paced story.
Slide to unlock
When you boot up Sara is Missing, you'll see a phone lock screen come up. There's no surrounding hud elements when you do this at all, making the experience feel like you're actually using a phone that's not yours. You then quickly learn that this phone is not a normal phone.
Sara's phone in Sara is Missing is both a phone with some pretty severe damage to it and some pretty impressive software on it, namely an app called IRIS. IRIS is a sort of personal assistant AI app that serves to help guide you through restoring the phone and learning more about Sara.
Something has gone wrong
As the game title suggests, poking around on Sara's phone reveals that she is–in fact–missing. It then becomes your job to work with IRIS to discover what happened to her. Since the game takes place on a phone screen, most of this involves reading through text messages, digging through emails, and looking through photos.
Sara's phone also has some added functionality thanks to IRIS where you can tap and hold on the screen to have IRIS investigate what you're looking at and reveal more information to you. It's using this mechanic and text messaging using preset replies to incoming messages that advances the story. These mechanics are paired with some extremely light puzzle-solving, making for gameplay that isn't particularly satisfying, but it does help keep the story moving, which is easily the most interesting part of Sara is Missing.
When you first start playing Sara is Missing, it's easy to assume that its story will tell yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of putting so much personal information onto mobile devices. While the game definitely explores that territory to some extent, the main narrative of Sara is Missing goes in a direction that is completely surprising, riveting, and scary for completely different reasons.
While it's not the longest game in the world (a playthrough can easily be done in one sitting), Sara is Missing is so intense by the end that the length didn't particularly bother me. Plus, it has multiple endings and it's free, so it's a little hard to complain too much about that.
The bottom line
Sara is Missing is one of the most intense and surprising game experiences I've had on mobile. It's not the most mechanically rewarding experience, but that is offset by its wonderfully eerie story and completely free price tag.