The things that really change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.” Neil Gaiman
Developer: Angela He
Released: May 2019
Price: Free/Name your own price
Note: This game and article contain references to mental health and other potentially sensitive subjects.
missed messages was an originally an entry to Ludum Dare 44 which took place in April and had the theme Life is Currency. The developer, Angela He, states on the game’s LDJam page, that she “didn’t want to make a finance/resource management game and came up with this idea because your choices mean life or death”; I felt the game linked back to the jam’s theme by making the player ponder the value of life and the consequences that even small actions can have.
The game is short, with multiple endings and describes itself as ‘a romance/horror story about life, death, and memes’. The player starts in their room and throughout the day has to balance work, friendship with her roommate and a potential online relationship. There are four potential long-term outcomes from the player’s actions and varying consequences for the protagonist and the surrounding characters.
missed messages has a pleasing art-style, slightly cartoonish with a painted feel and also makes good use of colour and lighting. The music was atmospheric for the most part and fit well within the game, though there was one jazzy number that I found really quite irritating! There is a tiny bit of voice acting present, but it is unfortunately weak and really, an unnecessary addition.
The writing and dialogue in the game are well executed, with conversations and internet communications feeling natural and believable. There were some grammar and spelling mistakes that I noticed (such as ‘mean either’ instead of ‘me neither’) but I will put this down to the time constraints inherent in a game jam! The conversations make up the bulk of the game’s interactivity and are an integral part of the experience, they are also where the games focus on mental health comes in.
The game’s art is one of the stand-out elements of the game and really helped to convey the emotion and feeling of each scene. I love the style and appreciated the little details that made it so emotive and gave it a unique feel.
Depending on the player’s observations and choices, a friend will open up about how they are feeling and that they are struggling. The player can react with kindness, and try to help the friend, or react with either a willful or blissful ignorance and the response will have a lasting impact. I found it a little remiss to gloss over the stigma still attached to mental health problems and not include an inherently negative reaction because, in reality, that is something that can and does happen.
missed messages captures the potential awkwardness of opening up about mental health well and provides an insightful and heartfelt experience. It manages to convey a lot of emotion in a short time and whilst sometimes a little heavy-handed with the subject matter, it was clearly created with understanding and good intentions.
There are some minor flaws and areas that could use polishing, but that is to be expected of a game created in only one weekend and did not impact the experience too much. The game was an emotional but enjoyable experience lasting around 15mins and the different possible outcomes provide replayability. The game is now available on Steam, and itch for free, or on a ‘name your own price’ basis and I would definitely recommend it.
For more Ludum Dare coverage and game recommendations, you can also check out Kati’s Favorite Ludum Dare #44 Entries!