You’re walking through a busy thoroughfare and you find a phone on the ground. You pick it up and see that it’s unlocked. You have complete access to the phone’s messages, phone logs, emails, photos and songs.
There’s no data, so you can’t connect to the internet or make calls. It’s got a local Wi-Fi source in its history, but you don’t know the password.
How are you going to get it back to its owner?
Accidental Queens’ A Normal Lost Phone is a tap-and-click puzzle game for the smartphone age. Players navigate through the phone’s various menus, finding clues to solve puzzles in order to — presumably — return the phone to its owner. The game features the same linear puzzle-solving style that was popularized by games like The Secret of Monkey Island, but instead of exploring a geographical space, the player’s forced to explore something far more intimate: the contents of a teenage boy’s cellphone.
It’s an anxiety-inducing task, made thrilling by sheer virtue of the fact that the player has almost full access to the contents of another person’s phone. It’s this specific premise — the ability for players to indulge their most voyeuristic tendencies — that makes A Normal Lost Phone so exhilarating.
There’s a reason we lock our phones with passwords and fingerprints. There’s a reason why chills run down our spines when people we barely know ask to borrow our phones to make phone calls. There’s a reason we get so upset when we find out our government has been spying on us.
Our phones aren’t just our property, they’re often extensions of our identities.
A Normal Lost Phone runs with this idea of the person-object bond, presenting the lost phone as a clear extension of its owner. As players root through the contents of the phone, they learn more about Sam, the teenager who goes to board game cafes with his friends; who recently celebrated his 18th birthday; who has a strained relationship with his parents; who broke up with his girlfriend not long ago; who witnessed something at a party that’s made him feel isolated from the rest of his friends.
Additionally, players are given few instructions throughout the game and the justifications for exploring Sam’s phone are, therefore, entirely their own.
I chose to believe that I was snooping through Sam’s phone because it would mean that I’d be able to return it to him more quickly. Of course I needed to read every single message between Sam and his father — surely there’d be a clue that would let me connect to Wi-Fi. Obviously I needed to rifle through his photos, maybe I’d be able to find his email password. No, really, I had to look through his phone logs, how else am I going to connect to his dating profile?
A Normal Lost Phone is available on Android, as well as Windows, macOS, and Linux, but I highly recommend playing it on mobile. Not only is the experience made more immersive, but it allows the player to connect with the game on an almost existential level. There are few games that justify their own existence when played on specific consoles. Unlike most games, however, A Normal Lost Phone, is a game that resonates more emotionally when played on a specific device.
Play the game long enough, and you start to wonder, “What would people learn about me if they found my normal lost phone?”