Lifeline Review [iOS]

It’s not often that I get sucked into a game on an emotional level. A level where I’m actually genuinely curious about where the path of the protagonist leads. In most games you are a bystander, you’re separated from the choices. As visceral the graphics, as intense the story, you’re still just a person clicking a mouse.

Lifeline by 3 Minute Games turns what I expected out of an iOS game onto its head.

The game manages to breach the fifth wall in a way that is unique to apps. The game starts with Taylor, we never know if it’s a girl or boy, stranded on a distant moon and possibly the only survivor of a starship crash. Right off the bat we’re sucked in with a plea for help, a few lines of text that almost make you shiver. Whoever is asking, is alone.

As Taylor tromps along you get to assist him/her with some difficult choices, and sometimes not so difficult ones. At one point on the first day Taylor has to choose between sleeping next to a nuclear reactor emitting 150 rads an hour, or trying to stay warm in the ship. Taylor literally asks you to go and look it up. Somewhere some mod on wikipedia is wondering about the huge spike on the radiation sickness page…

2You always have a meaningful choice. It might be getting to know Taylor better, or forcing Taylor to face fear. Sometimes you feel like a jerk. Sometimes you have to be a jerk to get Taylor through a tough spot.

And that’s where you start to get sucked in. You picture Taylor (I see Taylor as a girl, my wife sees him as boy) as just a high school age kid who needs your help to survive. To add a layer of realism you give a suggestion and see Taylor is busyFor the next few hours you wonder if Taylor is dead, what’s happening? (You can turn the wait time off, but I don’t recommend it.)

3Taylor will die. At least I’ve told Taylor to do things that directly led to her death. I’m not going to get into how, you’ll discover soon enough. You really feel it when you both fail. Because you both did fail. I found that if I got to know Taylor better than I could interact with her in a stronger way. Sometimes just talking to Taylor is more helpful than telling her to push on.

The graphics are simple. It feels like you’re getting a string of text messages. Replying is even simpler, two choices. After Taylor responds you might get two more choices, or she may set off and get back to you later. The minimalist style works very well. Your imagination works to fill in the blanks.

At times you’ll dislike Taylor. I did. He/she whined. Bitched. Complained. This really got on my nerves and I was ready to leave Taylor stranded to die when my wife reminded me that he/she was just a high school kid. I might not like everything about Taylor, but it fit the character.

The choices are varied enough that I can see a few playthroughs. Now this is one spot where I’d turn on the time compression and skip the waits. It’ll make that much_1 easier to get to the fresh stuff. 

On the downside some choices are vague. Do I have her pick up that thing and lug it around? At one point I did, with no noticeable problems or side effects. Was this because I’d made a proper choice earlier? I’d have appreciated some down the road feedback on stuff like that.

To be honest it brings me back to a kid when I’d read the Choose Your Own Adventure books and have every single one of my fingers jammed into the pages. One seemingly small decision could cascade into failure. It was kind of fun to know where you went wrong. I hope Lifeline is a little more advanced than that, maybe there’s some randomness, or a probability of an event that makes the game different everytime even if you make the same choices.

But I don’t know if it does that. But man, it’d be awesome if it did.

This game has a definite The Martian feel. You’ll find yourself hunting Netflix for a scifi survival show just to get through the Taylor is Busy time.

At $0.99 it’s a must buy.

9 / 10

Gamer, Author, Engineer, Dad.

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