It can be hard to find time to quit a video game, especially if you only have hours to play a week. In our biweekly column Short Play we propose video games that can be started and ended on a weekend.
Shorter games are often able to tackle topics and ideas that would be more challenging in a large blockbuster production. This is one of the main reasons why I chose this column: to highlight the smaller experiences that offer something new, inventive or experimental. Missed News by solo developer Angela He is the perfect encapsulation of it.
In Missing News Play as a college-age girl who lives in one of her school's dorms with her roommate May. It's a visual novel like Butterfly Soup or One Night, Hot Springs although at first glance it does not necessarily look like this. The game starts with you awakening 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.
They also have access to a laptop on which they can do schoolwork should do. You'll probably spend a lot of time on your laptop playing the first time you play through. The laptop is a Mac and actually works very much like an actual Mac laptop. There's a Spotify-like app open that lets you change the background music of the game into one of three songs. There's also a Notes app open where your character works on their homework. She can even receive AirDrop requests, and that's how it all starts.
For those of us who do not have an Apple device, Apple users with AirDrop can send files and notes to each other via the same Wi-Fi network or via Bluetooth. This makes it easy for you to share a photo with a friend, but you can also receive a message from any user on the same Wi-Fi network, such as a dormitory wireless network.
And that's what happens when you get a picture of "goth's iPhone". You can accept the shared image and possibly start a conversation with the one who owns the iPhone or you can work again. If and how you choose to respond, and other decisions you make subsequently, you will be able to use one of the four endings of the game in various ways.
Warning: After this point there are some spoilers.
The AirDrop messages are a brilliant piece of misleading, and along with the design of the title screen, they set your expectations that the missing cover messages will be digital in nature – that this will be a story about relationships in a digital age a la Do not take it personally, baby, it's just not your story . But instead it serves to distract you and cause you to miss the actual messages that you should have noted regarding the risk of suicide in May first play. It is only natural that you do so, provided that you have fallen into this area without knowing anything about the story between your character and May, with the exception of what you can read out of the environment. So you do not expect to pay attention to the mental state of May. However, on the second pass, you have a better sense of their relationship and story, as well as what you should do.
For the player, these subsequent passages may feel a bit like a time warp, but writing makes it feel quite natural and natural that your character is worried and May approaches what's going on. It does not feel unusual, as if you were somehow pushing them out of their normal routine to prevent something bad happening. The conversation they lead is neither judgmental nor melodramatic. Rather, it feels surprisingly normal.
Missing News pretends to be a "romance / horror story," though I do not know if I'd call it that. There are moments of romance and moments of horror, but overall it feels personal. If the game was just the conversation you're likely to have on your second round, it probably would not have the same effect. Instead, the game skilfully and efficiently uses its first pass to put you in the right emotional space. In this way, you can better understand and approach the current situation the next time you experience the story.
Missed News was created by Angela He. You can download it to Itch.io to pay for what you want, or Steam for free (Windows, Mac OS and Linux). 19659019]