Lifeline begins with your receiving a transmission from “Taylor,” a man or woman who is stranded (and alone…?) on a strange planet. Maybe “game” is the wrong moniker for this app–it’s really more of an interactive experience, similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure novels of days gone by.
Lifeline: The Basics
It starts like this:
And away you go! From here on out, it’s as if you’re interacting with Taylor, complete with realistic overnight pauses in communication as s/he goes to sleep for the night.
Taylor’s funny, even amidst dreary circumstances:
Your first choice with fairly serious consequences comes early in the game:
Off Taylor goes, and you wait:
One of the coolest things about the app is the on-screen notifications you get even when you’re not “playing”:
You can even respond without unlocking your phone:
For the most part Taylor will do what you say, though it is not uncommon to have your wisdom second-guessed. After a little banter, though, Taylor will ultimately follow the path you suggest.
Evaluation (Insignificant Spoilers Below)
I had way more fun playing Lifeline that I thought I would. And I was much more drawn into the story than I expected to be.
The pacing of the story (i.e., how often you receive notifications and the real-life waiting time overnight or while Taylor is walking somewhere) is nearly flawless. You really have to spend three to four days to get Taylor to the end. Well… unless you make bad decisions early on.
I was actually pretty happy with myself that I got Taylor safely off the planet on the first try.
After you finish the story you get the option to go back again, this time with no delays, which is a really nice way to quickly try other paths.
When I went back to try new scenarios, I realized that you can get him/her killed the first day pretty easily!
The phone notifications are just like any other app’s notifications, though when you’re immersed in the game they sort of feel like text messages. There is no sound with the message notification, and I couldn’t find a way to change this setting. At first I found this a bit frustrating, but was actually glad for it as the days went on, so that I wasn’t constantly interrupted by Taylor. (You can adjust notifications in the settings otherwise.)
One mildly vexing thing about the game is that it’s not uncommon that after you make a decision for Taylor, s/he confirms that it was a good (or maybe not-good) decision by giving you more detail about surroundings… detail s/he already had and that would have been very useful before offering advice! E.g.:
But I can’t tell if this is a frustration with the game-writing or the character. Not a big deal either way.
Lifeline is great. It’s available in the iOS App Store right now (see here). It’s also available on other platforms, and rumor has it that Lifeline 2 is coming soon…. Check out the game in more detail here. And go here for a fascinating behind-the-scenes write-up.