A Normal Lost Phone

Videogame invites you to discover someone through their lost phone

You find a phone on the ground outside. You look around, but there’s no one in sight. Hoping that there will be some information to help you contact the owner, you turn the phone on. This is where the preview for A Normal Lost Phone starts. Immediately, four messages pop up on the phone, sent over the last couple hours from the owner’s dad. “Where are you?”; “Where did you go?” Accidental Queens, the collective that created A Normal Lost Phone, list Her Story (2015), Gone Home (2013), and Life is Strange (2015) as their main inspirations. It feels most strongly…

bohemian killing.600x338

Protest your innocence in a new nonlinear courtroom drama

Bohemian Killing, released last week on Steam, is a game about being guilty. More specifically, it’s a game about being guilty and then convincing a court of law that you’re not. A courtroom drama that wants to avoid both Phoenix Wright camp and Law & Order plodding dullness, the main draw of the game is not discovering who committed murder or why, but instead constructing a lie believable—or not—enough to exonerate yourself. Your past is known; your testimony is malleable, and eager to be manipulated. If a blatant lie won’t do, sift through the evidence and twist it to your own…

The Hex

The Hex, a new mystery from one of videogames’ greatest tricksters

At its core, one could shave down a detective story to three basic questions: who, why, and how. Who was the victim, who was the perpetrator? Why and how they did commit the crime? From Sam Barlow’s FMV mystery in Her Story (2015) and Cole Phelps’ investigations across the seedy streets of 1940s Los Angeles in LA Noire (2011), to the forensics of CSI and the mental deductions of Sherlock, those questions drive players and fictional sleuths alike. Often the answers to the “how?” and “why?” are easy to fathom—jealousy, revenge, greed, and so on—but what happens when victim and…

ben wander murder collection

New female detective game seeks to right L.A. Noire’s wrongs

Ben Wander, a game developer with experience at BioWare and Visceral Games, has wanted to make a game about the 1920s for a while. After years of ogling independent game makers from afar, he finally dove in with a short demo of his upcoming detective game. The premise is that you have to interrogate the butler of a rich man, found dead in his home after an overdose. The newspaper you read that morning speculates suicide. The butler swears to find his killer. You click around his beautiful silhouetted living room and try to put two and two together to…


Lo-fi survival horror returns next week as Back in 1995 comes out

The year 1995 was a turning point for the videogame industry. It was the first year of E3—now the biggest videogame awards and announcement show, which still runs annually. It was the year of the release of Sony’s PlayStation in Europe and North America (it had been released the year prior in Japan), as well as the release of the now cult-regarded system Sega Saturn (also released in 1994 in Japan). While the systems’ most notable games didn’t see release until a year or so after, 1995 was the start of something new. The dawn of a new generation—and a delightfully…

Return of the Obra Dinn

Development of Papers, Please creator’s next game hits rough seas

It’s been a year and a half since Papers Please (2013) creator Lucas Pope first announced his nautical mystery game Return of the Obra Dinn, releasing a small demo of the game for players to try for free. Like many demos, it offered a vertical slice of the game’s typical routine, helping to embody what the full game might eventually look like as a whole. However, while working on a new demo to show at this year’s GDC, Pope found that his original vertical slice “did not scale up (at all) to making a full game.” As such, he’s taken to…


Solstice leaves its best mysteries unsolved

In the eighth episode of The X-Files, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are dispatched to investigate radio silence at a science outpost in Icy Cape, Alaska. There they discover a parasite—because it’s always a parasite—that makes its host hyper-violent. Suspicion and fear threaten to tear the team apart as they search for answers. In the knick of time because it’s always in the knick of time—reason and rationality prevail, temporarily giving order to the chaos and showing our protagonists a way forward in their eternal search for the truth. Solstice similarly follows the first-person accounts of Galen, a doctor,…


Kôna invites you to investigate an abandoned town in 1970s Canada

The most striking thing about the new trailer for Kôna, an upcoming surreal mystery game from Parabole, is its narration. It has this really odd, stilted intonation that I can’t quite place; the boom and quirk of old timey radio announcer meets the uncanny poetry of The Residents. Whatever it is, I like it. It sets such a strange tone for the rest of the video, which is just as good: as we learn from our dramatic narrator, you play as a Korean War veteran named Carl Faubert who ventures into the Northern Canadian wilderness to investigate a bout of…