App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Killing Time at Lightspeed is a game like Simulacra or A Normal Lost Phone in the sense that it emulates a sort of phone interface, but it puts a unique twist on it. Instead of coming across a random person’s phone and snooping through their device, you play as the owner of a device who is traveling at lightspeed, which makes simple things like keeping up with social media a really strange, difficult, but fascinating thing to do. It may not be the longest journey out there, but Killing Time at Lightspeed is a unique adventure worth going on.
A quick setup
Your journey begins with a short exposition that reveals you are someone named Jay who is embarking on an interstellar journey to another solar system. The bad news about this is that it will take you 29 years to get there, but the good news is that you’ll only feel like you were traveling for about 30 minutes.
While in transit, the ship you’re on allows you to browse a simple interface that can give you updates from your friends and the news on your travels, and it’s this device that you’re constantly reading through to experience the entirety of Killing Time at Lightspeed.
As a game, Killing Time at Lightspeed is most easily defined as a visual novel. There aren’t really puzzles to solve or specific objectives to accomplish. You simply read through as much (or as little) of your feed as you want and interact with your friends if you so choose by replying to their messages. It’s a lot like browsing a regular social media feed, actually, with the main exception being that your replies are one of a few canned responses for you to choose from instead of something you write yourself.
What makes this completely fascinating is the fact that your experience of time is so drastically different than everyone else’s that each time you refresh your feed a huge amount of time has passed. What seems like mere minutes to you can be a whole year for everyone else, and getting these small windows in time across a 29 year period makes for some very interesting reading and correspondence. Technology advances rapidly, your friends transform as their interests shifts and they meet new people, but you aren’t there for any of it. You just get to peek in on the world occasionally as it moves on without you, and it's all served up to you on a little yellow and black, mostly text-based interface.
A short story
It doesn’t take particularly long to make it through Killing Time at Lightspeed. All told, your time with the game will likely be the same as Jay’s transit time: 30 minutes or so. That said, what Killing Time at Lightspeed may lack in length is made up for in the quality of its content and presentation.
The basic user interface you use to control the game, the arcs of your friends, and the snippets of news stories you peruse are all packed with detail and do a marvelous job of evoking a world that you never get a chance to actually see, and this is all done with an incredible amount of restraint. Killing Time at Lightspeed definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it doesn’t feel like it has to either.
The bottom line
As far as visual novels go, Killing Time at Lightspeed is easy to recommend. Even if you’re new to or unfamiliar with the genre, this game is a great length for folks who want to get their feet wet but still get a satisfying and complete story. Killing Time at Lightspeed is an original, smart, and unique game, which is something we could use more of on the App Store.