Missed Messages, once you get past being incredibly jealous of this beautiful dorm room, is a game about "romance, horror, and memes." All three manage to be realistic, something that’s not easy to pull off, but is helped along by developer Angela He basing the whole thing on her real experiences. It is also, obviously, completely gorgeous and I kind of just want to stare at it all day.
“’Goth gf's iPhone’ airdrops you a photo,” reads the game’s itch.io description. “Accept or decline?”
It’s an innocuous beginning but things quickly become more intense. (It’s worth heeding the content warnings for suicide and self harm.) Made for the Ludum Dare game jam, it approaches the theme “your life is currency” sideways, exploring how we spend our time and what might distract us from the bigger picture.
I’ll avoid spoilers, but on my first playthrough I spent a lot of time messing around with the houseplants and this stranger sending me pictures of dogs wearing baseball caps. It led to a very different ending than when I paid more attention to the subtle hints of less frivolous things happening just out of view.
That’s not to say that only focusing on the super-serious is what’s important, though. The best part in the game, described in abstract, is just an extended conversation between two people, lying idly around as the sun sets. It weaves together everything else the game touches on: good friends, mental health, and, obviously, more memes.
If this is up your street, you’re in luck, because He has made a number of similar games. There’s This Girl is a romance between two stargazers, You Left Me is a dark story about being transported to a surreal world with a talking cyclopic cat, and I Woke Up Next To You Again is the tale of an addictive but damaging relationship. Plenty to dig into. Also, cats!
All of He’s work is available on her itch.io, and most of it is pay what you want with no minimum.