Drop everything and download: A Normal Lost Phone

Solving puzzles by sleuthing through a smartphone

It could happen to any of us and probably has happened to most of us: the dreaded lost phone.

Left on a bus. Dropped at a concert. Misplaced by evil invisible phone thieves. But - phew - at least it was password protected, otherwise any peeping tom could pry through your entire mobile life.

Not in this game, though: see, the phone of some unfortunate owner has somehow found its way into your hands - and its contents are all there for you to creep through. Sorry, investigate.

Sure, some bits are off limits, but that’s all part of the challenge...

What does it do

Mainly it makes you question your morality. Sure, you know it’s a game, but, as you peruse the main character’s texts, emails and online profiles to uncover their secrets and the reason behind their apparent disappearance, there’s no escaping just how invasive it feels.

Intriguingly, though, that only adds to the pull of the puzzles, which disguise themselves cleverly as standard phone functions. In fact, the interface of A Normal Lost Phone is basically an emulated, stylised phone OS, which makes the whole experience feel oddly close to reality.

Without giving too much away, your first task involves finding a password. There’s no direction or hint - because this is someone’s lost phone, remember? - so you’re simply left to leaf through conversations and the phone’s contents to find what might be clues.

It perfectly channels the real-world feeling of games such as Lifeline and Her Story, leaving plenty to your initiative and subtly building a sense of achievement - albeit an unerringly creepy one.

Any downsides?

Besides a constant sense of guilt? Well, while the game’s developer has come up with clever reasons why many functions don’t work - insufficient credit, for example, means you can’t send texts - sometimes you hit a wall that slightly breaks the illusion.

The calendar, for example, only goes back a couple of months. It’s a small thing, but it does remind you that you’re playing a game, which is otherwise easy to forget.

Besides that, the biggest downside is simply how tricky it can be to figure out what you need to do next. But, then, you weren’t expecting some 5-minute puzzle game, were you? Put your best Holmes hat on and get thinking.

Where can I get it?

A Normal Lost Phone is available on iOS for $3.99 and on Android for $2.99. There’s also a Steam version, if you want to play on your PC.