App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
It seems that puzzle games that revolve around phone interfaces are officially their own sub-genre now. The App Store has seen at least one of these games release per month since November, with A Normal Lost Phone being the latest entry for this month. As much as these games all contain a certain amount of mechanics and themes, A Normal Lost Phone stands out from the others because of its excellent storytelling.
The first thing you see when booting up A Normal Lost Phone is a colorful home screen that resembles–but doesn't quite emulate–modern phones and an alert that some text messages from “Dad” have recently been received.
This sets you off on an investigation that involves reading through text messages, accessing wifi hotspots, and lurking on forums to discover more about the owner and the course of events that have led up to you finding this phone. All of this investigation is done via a typical touchscreen interface with apps, a home button, and nearly everything else you might expect on a modern smartphone.
Since what you find during your snooping session is the primary driving force of A Normal Lost Phone, let's just say that you'll discover things about the owner that are remarkably personal and private. While this is true of other phone-based puzzle games, none of them have revelations that feel so intimate as the ones in A Normal Lost Phone.
This is mainly due to the game's writing and pacing, both of which are so pitch perfect that they are able to make characters memorable purely through text messages and elicit genuine emotional reactions when you discover new things about them. It's really impressive how well all of the text in A Normal Lost Phone works, both as vehicles for telling stories and providing clues on where to look for the next puzzle to solve.
Speaking of puzzles, A Normal Lost Phone actually feels weakest in this department. This isn't to say that its puzzles are bad, but some of the solutions are underwhelming. Compared to the way that games like Replica - A Little Temporary Safety incorporated more obscure and technical aspects of phones to create puzzles, A Normal Lost Phone's puzzle design relies more on text hints and a little guess work, which can make it feel more simplistic.
For me, this was hardly an issue. I was so drawn in my A Normal Lost Phone's story that I never really felt like the game felt lacking in any particular way. If you are looking for robust mechanics or puzzles in A Normal Lost Phone, I suggest you look elsewhere. The main event here is definitely the story.
The bottom line
A Normal Lost Phone may not be the longest or most mechanically dense game out there, but I enjoyed every moment I spent with it. It's writing and story are so well presented that your phone snooping feels incredibly real and personal. It's a level of intimacy that most other video games completely fail to capture, which just goes to show how special A Normal Lost Phone is.