PEGBRJE: A Normal Lost Phone and Speed Dating for Ghosts
Time for some HEARTFELT EMOTIONAL ADVENTURE.
A Normal Lost Phone is a narrative puzzle game made by Accidental Queens, a trio dev team out of France assisted in publishing by Dear Villagers, a publishing branch of Plug In Digital. You are yourself, a random soul in this fictional world that has come across a lost phone that is somehow able to be accessed by yourself. Instead of doing the sensible thing and finding the name of the owner and immediately closing the phone, you decide that this could be a fun puzzle and uncover the dark secrets within this phone, discovering more about the owner and the dark secrets they may possess.
Ok, this sounds extremely malicious when I spin it that way, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was invading someone’s privacy for a lot of the game. Sorry.
Forgoing that minor detail, A Normal Lost Phone is a mystery puzzle game, one where you must use your deductive skills to piece together who’s phone this is and why it may be lost in the first place. Similar to games such as Gone Home, players piece together bits and pieces of memories, photos, texts and emails to create a narrative for players to understand and relate to. Without spoiling much of the game, I can state that it follows an 18 year old named Sam, and turmoil that leads to the lost phone.
While I’ve said before that I’m awful at puzzles, I love detective-themed media for some reason. It’s something about the narration and understanding the pieces that fit together to uncover truths that feels extremely satisfying, and A Normal Lost Phone does this fantastically. Early on I had guessed the twist of the narrative, yet began to second-guess myself due to how ambiguously specific the writing could get. It is a massive credit to the writing team to make the narration feel so obvious at the beginning, yet overtime erode the player’s confidence in their prediction by giving tidbits of other possibilities that couldn’t be ruled out yet. Even after the twist was revealed, there were dozens of little pieces of information that had gone unnoticed or revealed parts of Sam that I hadn’t expected in the slightest.
A Normal Lost Phone made me feel clever when I really had no right to — I wasn’t solving any extremely convoluted mystery, just reading text messages and remembering dates. Yet every password I cracked felt as if I had done just that, solved a crime case to uncover the secrets within. Perhaps it has to do with just how real the characters felt, how dozens of text messages were written by numerous individuals that reminded me of ones I had sent or received in the past. Maybe it was how they unfolded with missing information, as if the conversations were done in real life and only pieces were sent via text. If you have an hour or so to discover the life of Sam and empathize with a stranger, A Normal Lost Phone is an emotional roller coaster tightly packed into a mobile device.
And it can be played on a mobile device for even more immersion! What’s not to like.
Speed Dating for Ghosts is a visual novel-styled narrative game by Copychaser Games, the pseudonym for the solo dev Ben Gelinas in collaboration with some of his friends. In it, you are dead. Super dead. Dead enough to be a ghost, and for reasons personal to you the player, you have signed up for speed dating with other ghosts. Greeted by the organizer Fran, you choose a room and converse with 3 other ghosts unique to each room, firing rapid questions at each other or making casual conversation. After 2 ‘rounds’ of interactions, you get to pick which ghost you thought was the cutest or most interesting, and see if you can pursue them for an actual date.
This is by far one of the most bizarre hooks for a game I’ve played that wasn’t a game I would slot away in the ‘abstract’ category. It feels very similar to a visual novel with all of the different dateable characters, yet is done in such a blunt and rapidfire manner. Each ghost has their own personality and wants, and it isn’t really up to the player to agree with all of them — unless attempting to get all romance paths completed. There are a few explicit ways of telling that a ghost is into the player via hearts coming from them, but some are just looking for a haunting partner and won’t ‘heart’ players. The final decision is completely up to whether or not players have acquired the interest of a ghost, and if they are wanting to see what said ghost might be up to after the speed dating has completed.
Some might ask then, ‘what’s the point?’, which I can reply quite easily; the point is having various different conversations on the topic of death and what it means to move on. Through each speed date, players learn about who these ghosts were as humans or are trying to be as ghosts, each with their own outlooks on their now immortality and their opinions on being dead. They are all looking at this state of being in different ways, and are approaching dating in the various ways to compliment their opinions on the afterlife. You as the player get to choose if you wish to be a part of whatever they’ve chosen to do with their unlife, be it robbing banks or assisting elderly homes, and its these choices that drive the player to see how they see. Invest in a certain character’s philosophy, and see what they might be doing with themselves or how they cope. It’s almost a character study for how individuals deal with death, coated in the lighthearted atmosphere of speed dating. Except for Gary. They’re not lighthearted.
Exploring the 9 initial poltergeists and learning about them is the driving reason to enjoy Speed Dating for Ghosts. Even though they are dead, they were all once human and retain their personalities and dreams regardless of their lack of a physical space. It isn’t a long game, with routes getting shorter once you know which ghost you wish to learn more about and their responses, but it unlocks various other routes that players can see and enjoy. Even with Hallowe’en over, I’d recommend Speed Dating for Ghosts to anyone looking for a narrative experience that is equal parts funny and morbid, dancing between the lighthearted and the somber while dealing with such heavy topics like death, loneliness and general boredom.
I’d also like to point out that Fran is the best ghost. That is all.
Links to these little narrative powerhouses below
A Normal Lost Phone
A Normal Lost Phone is a game about exploring the intimacy of an unknown person whose phone was found by the player…