It can be difficult to find time to complete a video game, especially if you only have a few hours to play a week. In our biweekly column Short game we recommend video games that can be started and ended in a weekend.
Shorter games can often tackle themes & ideas that would be more challenging in a large blockbuster production. That is one of the main reasons why I decided to start this column: to highlight those smaller experiences that offer something new, inventive or experimental. Missed messages, from solo developer Angela He, is the perfect encapsulation of this.
In Missed messages, you play as a middle-aged student who lives in one of her school's dormitories with her roommate May. It is a visual novel such as Butterfly soup or One night, hot springs, although at first it doesn't seem that way. The game starts with waking up from a dream and exploring your room. There are various objects that you can click on, such as plants or books, and each click is accompanied by an inner monologue that gives you an idea of the main character.
You also have access to a laptop, where they have to do school work that they should do. You will probably spend a lot of time on the laptop during your first playthrough. The laptop is a Mac and actually works just like a real Mac laptop. A Spotify-like app has been opened, with which you can change the background music of the game to one of the three songs, and there is also a Notes app open where your character works on her homework. She can even receive AirDrop requests, and that's how everything starts.
For those of us who don't have an Apple device, AirDrop users from Apple can send files and notes to each other via the same WiFi network or via Bluetooth. This allows you to easily share a photo with a friend, but everyone on the same WiFi network (for example, the wireless network of a student house) can send you something.
And that is exactly what happens when you receive a picture memo from the gothic iPhone. You can accept the shared image and possibly start a conversation with the person whose iPhone is, or you can go back to work. If and how you choose to respond and other choices you make afterwards, you lead different paths to one of the four endings of the game.
Warning: after this point there are spoilers.
The AirDrop messages are a brilliant piece of deception and together with the design of the title screen they establish your expectations that the titular missed messages will be digital in nature – that this is a story about relationships in a digital age la Don't take it personally, honey, it's just not your story. But instead, it is to distract you and make sure that you miss the factual messages that you should have been aware of that May is a suicide risk.
I don't think the game is trying to chastise you for missing the characters on your first playthrough. It goes without saying that you would do that, given that you fell into this space without knowing anything about the history between your character and May, except what pieces you can get from the area. So you cannot expect to know that you have to pay attention to the mental state of May. In the second time, however, you have a better sense of their relationship and history, as well as what you should do.
For the player, these consecutive plays may feel a bit like being in a time loop, but writing gives it a completely normal and natural feeling that your character is concerned and may approach what is going on. It does not feel uncommon, as if you are somehow pushing her out of her normal routine to prevent something bad from happening. The conversation they have is not judgmental or melodramatic. It feels incredibly normal.
Missed messages claims a & # 39; romance / horror story & # 39; although I don't know if I should mention it. There are moments of romance and moments of horror, but collectively it feels personal. If the game had only been the conversation that you would probably get during your second playthrough, I don't think it would have the same impact. Instead, the game skillfully and efficiently uses its first playthrough to get you into the right emotional space. That way you can better understand and approach the situation the next time you experience the story.