A Normal Lost Phone
Developer: Accidental Queens (ported by Seaven Studio)
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: March 1, 2018
If you found an unlocked cellular phone on the street, what lengths would you go to discover the owner? Would you check their emails and messages, or even take deeper dives into dating app profiles and forum posts?
French developer Accidental Queens have created one of the most novel narrative experiences I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in quite a while. A Normal Lost Phone tasks the player with treating the Nintendo Switch as an actual cell phone by playing it undocked and tilted at a 90-degree angle (known as “tate mode”), complete with fake apps and touch functionality. You don’t have to play it this way, but I found it to be far more immersive when treating this “lost phone” as an actual smart device.
You’re given no direction, just a handful of apps to dig around in hopes of finding its owner. You can read all of their text messages and emails, hunt down wifi passwords, download attachments and play detective, but once I began unlocking the owner’s dating profile and discovering hidden apps I started to feel a little uneasy.
A Normal Lost Phone began with me simply playing a video game but eventually gave me the same gut-check that Gone Home did years ago when I thought to myself “maybe I shouldn’t be digging into this stranger’s personal life.” We often go through the motions of playing a game, because that’s what our brains have been trained to do. To step back and think that I’m somehow wrongfully intruding in this fictional stranger’s personal life is a strong testament to the game’s execution.
Accidental Queens’ mock cell phone user-interface is spot on, with weather and calculator apps, tons of messages and emails to read, and everything serves to provide insight into not only who the owner is, but really who they are as a person.
This is a brief, two-hour coming-of-age story full of self-discovery and high-school drama, though it’s so much more. However, with A Normal Lost Phone’s narrative being what stuck with me the most, I’d rather not discuss it in any capacity to avoid spoiling the reveals for others.
I will say that if you’re the close-minded type then the subject matter is probably not going to click with you, but if you’re into these experimental narrative games and enjoy a good story (knowing that most of your time will be spent reading instead of battling terrorists or dragons), then, by all means, give it a go.
At first, I thought A Normal Lost Phone was just a cool idea — exploring this fake cell phone and its accompanying apps in order to solve a mystery — but the execution and the way in which the narrative unfolded really made for a potent combo whose end result was one of the most unique games on the Nintendo Switch.
It really is such a novel approach to video games and as someone who has loved this medium for 31 years of my life, feeling jaded from time to time, I live for these new, unique experiences. I cannot recommend A Normal Lost Phone enough when it launches tomorrow.
We do not use a scoring system here at Cheap Boss Attack. Hopefully, you found the above information far more informative than an arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. If you have any questions that weren’t answered in the review, please feel free to sound off down in the comments!
An advanced digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.