Ludum Dare 42: L: An Interactive Mystery

“L: An Interactive Mystery” by Cercle Games (Cullen Vance & Cameron Jackson), Mia Leigh Vance & Sabrina Gross.

“Diane’s daughter has gone missing, and they’ve found her phone. It’s a race against time, battery, and memory to search for clues about her disappearance, while discovering the intricacies and difficulties of a young life in personal crisis. This experience is part mystery, part puzzle, and part slice-of-life[.]”

Teenagers running away from home is not that uncommon. The motives for this can vary: They may feel constrained by their parents, the pressure to perform at school is too high for them or they have problems with their friends from whom they want to run away. This game is about a mother named Diane, who has to search for her current whereabouts as well as her motives on the cell phone of her missing daughter Ellen.

However, Ellen’s phone has been damaged, causing its battery to be unchargable. Accordingly, Diane runs slowly, but surely out of time. Since the cell phone memory is extremely small, she has to delete some files in order to install other apps and get access to them, which in turn may contain evidence of Ellen’s well-being. But uninstalling and installing the apps drops the battery.

In this way, the voicemails on Ellen’s phone can be intercepted, Diane can read through her messages, messenger texts and e-mails, listen to Ellen’s favorite podcasts or scroll through her Pictogram account. Through all these fragments a coherent story builds up, whose narrative is surpassed only by the outstanding synchronization work. The voice-over performance for the different characters is extremely professional, making Diane’s grief and Ellen’s girlfriend Zee’s quirkyness, but also her despair all the more relatable. Everything seems very authentic to me, which I really did not expect at all.

Even if memories of the (equally fantastic) “A Normal Lost Phone” may be awakening at this point, it is said at the end that this game is something very own. The focus on puzzles of the type ‘Find the password to unlock this account!’ is minimal, since only two are needed (one of which appears directly in Diane’s own notes, when it occurs, and the other can be found by attentive observation of the game; a little hint: Which four-letter combination is repeatedly mentioned in the game?). But for just three days, such an immersive narrative experience was created that astonishes me. >>PLAY