Version Reviewed: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I feel like we’re probably going to see more games like Lifeline in the near future. By which I mean games that pace their story and content out in measured increments of time, and are meant to cater to Apple Watch users’ tendency to glance at their devices for a few seconds at a time.
This is actually a pretty clever approach. It’s just unfortunate that Lifeline didn’t push things a bit farther.
Players act as a sort of third party observer to a (supposedly) lone spaceship crash survivor’s exploits. Technically it’s not observing as the only way you learn about what’s going on is through the communications Taylor (the protagonist) sends your way. Regardless, you’ll slowly learn more about Taylor and about what caused the Varia to crash through a steady series of messages that are meant to pop up as notifications - so you don’t actually need to open the app all the time, even when you’re giving Taylor instructions.
First, the good stuff. Lifeline does a very good job of setting up the story and quickly turning Taylor into someone you want to keep alive. Some of the writing falls a little flat, but for the most part it’s very well done. The look of the app when it is open, along with the music and sound effects, also do a good job of building up atmosphere. I even like the general idea of it. What’s unfortunate is how everything is paced.
Now for the bad. I’m absolutely not against Lifeline telling its story through clusters of messages, and I actually think making players wait a set amount of real time while Taylor performs certain tasks is an excellent touch. Being bombarded with message after message in your notifications while Taylor goes on a long-winded diatribe about not wanting to walk around a crater? That kinda bugs me. Kudos to 3 Minute Games for measuring the messages out so that each one fits in its own notification window without being cut off, but there are way too many of them way too often.
The other problem I ran into was dying. Since Lifeline basically functions as a choose-your-own adventure with the occasional binary decision to make, you’ll inevitably get Taylor killed and have to redo some stuff. It’s not so bad if you only need to go back one or two decisions to fix things, but the further back you go the longer it’s going to take to catch up to where you were. Because remember, Taylor does everything in pseudo real time.
Lifeline is an interesting approach to player immersion and storytelling, but whenever it gets in its own way the magic starts to wane to the point that it almost becomes a grind. I still think Taylor’s is a tale worth telling, but you’ll need to be patient with it.