Alice is Missing is a game Kickstarted back in 2020 by Hunters Entertainment, designed by Spenser Starke which I fell in love with from the moment I read its pitch. Even though it wasn’t planned to be a game for the pandemic, it came out during that time. Being a game solely played via text messages, I believe that might have helped it a great deal in its growth. In a short amount of time the game became so popular that they just launched an expansion for it, and is now in development as its own movie from Paramount!! If this didn’t have you taking a look at your wallet to go buy the game right now, keep reading because I may give you more than enough reasons to do so.
A brief idea of what Alice is Missing actually is
As I stated above, Alice is Missing is a game solely played via text messages from your phone. This can be simulated via messages in Discord from your PC as well (or similar approaches), but there’s something about texting from your phone that just adds a whole extra layer of immersion I love. The game centers around the disappearance of Alice, and the friends/family looking for her (from high school – young adult age). The game starts with an animated timer video you play and leave running in the background while you play, forcing the game to run for 1,5 hours, and not a second longer or earlier. The players get a character with one connection to Alice (the secret girlfriend, the simp, the best friend, the older brother, etc), as well as some questions to give more depth to the character you are playing (adding replayability to the game). One of the players takes the role of Charlie, the friend that used to live in the small town everyone is from, but left at a young age, and is just coming back. Whoever plays Charlie wants to meet Alice after such a long time of not seeing each other, only to not find her anywhere. They create the group chat everyone will be using in the game, putting a start to it, by asking if anyone knows where Alice is.
During the game, players impersonate their characters with their own respective personalities and goals, all attempting to find Alice. This is done by chatting via the group chat, or private messages. Theories on what is going on are constantly thrown between each other, while player characters may end up revealing secrets of their own during the game. The timer not only serves as a way to know when the game is over, but also as a soundtrack that brings tension to the game and better immerses you in the game. Additionally, every time 10 minutes pass, one of the players have to pick up a card, which usually has an event happen in the game, has your player character discover something, or allows you as the player to add in some interesting problem to the game. These are questions directed to the player, or just events that go on, which forces the player to improvise on how their character might react to that and tell the whole group about it. Once the timer ends, everyone puts down their phone and accepts the consequences of everything that went on during the game.
The Cards and replayability
While the game has many elements to add replayability, I believe that you might not ever get the same mystical element of the game in the same way as the first time you try it out. It’s truly an experience, unlike any other game I have played before. The tactile element of the phone, and sending text messages in a way we are all so used to, mixed in with the chill, then heart wrenching soundtrack, as well as the dread-inducing theme of the game, immerses me in the game in a way very few have before. That kind of experience is difficult to revive on a second playthrough. I have played it more than once with the same player group and it can steal lead to compelling very different stories.
I think of the game as more of an experience. The cards make sure to add randomness and unpredictable elements to the game, but a huge part of what makes the game change every time you play is the player group. There are few things as different as two brains, causing every time you play with a different player group to be immensely different. Yeah, the characters to play and the events that transpire are mostly the same, but the way each and every player interacts with the cards and messaging application is astoundingly diverse. Then, do I consider this game replayable? I’ve played it 4 times with 3 different player groups, and I’m still looking forward to playing it again. Being it more of an experience, I like to have some time pass before I start a new game to be fully refreshed before I do so. However, after two playthroughs with the same group, I’ve had one say that he isn’t very interested in playing the game again until we have the expansion (which I backed, of course). All in all, I believe the game might be more replayable for some than others, but it mostly depends on how many different player groups you can get to try it with.
Finding the culprit
Alice disappeared, and the game suggests that it is due to someone having kidnapped her, or forcing her to stay hidden. I’ve heard from an interview with Spenser Starke (that btw I got to meet at Big Bad Evil Con 2021 and I found him to be an amazing human being from the little chatter I got) that the expansion will also allow for some other reasons for her disappearance. How is it that the players get to investigate the case? This game doesn’t have a stated or prepped way for it to flow, nor does it have a GM. Nevertheless, the cards are the ones that guide all the players through a set story. There are several cards included in the game, meaning the events that transpire might get to change from one playthrough to another as you need to shuffle and use a random one no one knows from the pile. Every 10 minutes a player draws a card, and has the game change in regards to it. Once you’ve gone through the 40 minute mark, a new card is drawn every 5 minutes, growing the tension exponentially as each of these cards increases it with their content.
The most important two things you need to find are who has Alice, and where she is. These cards that are drawn as the timer keeps going are the ones that will have you draw from the possible suspects card (e.g. the bully, the ex-boyfriend, the history teacher), and the location cards (e.g. the abandoned cabin, the park, the night club). You as a player will theorize why Alice might be linked with the possible suspects and the location as you play. When the game is about to finish, the drawn location and suspect cards are shuffled and you get the final answers. You then proceed to keep playing until the grand finale occurs.
I feel that if I was to write too much about my experience during the games I would spoil it for you all, and one of the best things about Alice is Missing is that it is so different from what we are used to playing that it is better to just experience it. I’ll try to keep it vague just so you can be more hyped to get the game, but feel free to skip this whole section if you want to try it out knowing next to nothing about it.
The rules state that the owner of the game, or the more experienced with the rules should be the one playing as Charlie, as he is the one that introduces the whole scene to start playing, and could be the one moving the game forward most of the time. For that very reason, I’ve played the game 4 times as Charlie. If I get to replay the game with some of the friends I played with I will make sure to try out another character though. Not that it bored me because I built them every time as entirely different characters and playing with new people brought new types of conversations. In one of the games I got to be one of the big brother’s best pals, whereas in another one I got to be one of the only ones who knew that Alice was a wicca, while everyone was accusing her of being part of some evil cult.
The base game only contains three types of endings, and the game can go as dark as the players want them to be. Chatter about pedophilia has been thrown around in one of my games while we chased down the culprit which is something a whole lot of people will not enjoy including in their own games. This should be talked about at the very beginning to make sure no one goes too far. The way you can find items that may spring new ideas into your head to theorize while playing adds a whole extra layer of complexity to the game, as all players are sharing one single story, but not everyone may know all the details, and once they are shared, a new more interesting story might come to light. I’ve had my character trace down during one of the games who Alice’s secret girlfriend was by creating clues with the things I encountered which made me feel like a real detective (a rookie one). In the end, you may not have too much control of the ending as it is randomly selected, but the way the story you have been creating for one and a half hours comes together to create that final scene makes it all worth it. I’ve had chatters about the imaginary movie we had just created go for about one entire hour and a half before we could go back to our normal lives. It was truly an unforgettable experience; and if you get to play it with very creative people, you will surely get a lot more juice out of it!
In conclusion, I believe Alice is Missing is one of those games you have got to try at least once. It isn’t like anything I’ve played before, and the memories from those games will surely stay for a long time! I personally got the PDF version and printed it all out to save some bucks, but the boxed game is really pretty and I would recommend getting it. The artstyle is very similar to that of the Life is Strange videogames, which at the same time is one of its primary sources of inspiration.
Have you ever tried out Alice is Missing? How did it go? Did you get a good ending out of your story? Tell me of your best memories while playing or your doubts about the game in the comments below!
If you want to buy the game you can get it via lots of different sources. More information on that here: CLICK HERE