Developer: 3 Minute Games
Platforms: iOS, Android
A review by Christoph Staffl
This review is not about one specific Lifeline game, I want to give you an overall impression of the whole line-up: what are they about, are they worth your time, and what impact do these games have? But without any spoilers.
Up to this day there are seven games: Lifeline, Lifeline 2, Silent Night, Whiteout, Crisis Line, Flatline and Halfway through Infinity. Plus one library app, where you get news and updates, as well as some exclusive content, like additional stories. The interesting thing is that the stories take place in a shared universe. So with every new incarnation of the game, you discover more and more of this beautiful and rich world (depending on your imagination, but more on this later) – just like in every other movie these days.
The gameplay of these mobile games is nothing new, but they bring text adventures to a new era. Each game starts the same way: somewhere out there (this could be in space or a place on Earth), there is a person that needs assistance. Their lives are in danger or they are terrified of something that just happened to them. You are the first and only person they can reach and it is your duty to help them. Their fate lies in your hands. But how does this work exactly?
As the screenshot shows, you don’t actually play the characters, you can just read their messages. They describe their surroundings, what they’re experiencing in this very moment and where they go. On several occasions they get to a point, where they don’t know how to proceed. What should they do? How should they act in a particular situation? At this point it is your choice where they go. Because you “have a very particular set of skills” – sorry, couldn’t resist. Nevertheless you get to choose between two options. Either it has something to do with the way the story unfolds (sometimes you even have to google facts about chemicals or something like that to make sure you choose the correct option) or you can work on your relationship with the characters. If you choose the latter, you get to know the protagonists better. What are his or her interests, how long was their journey to this point, and so on and so forth.
But this is not just an ongoing interaction, where you decide what the protagonist should do or not, it is also in some ways a real-time-text-adventure-experience which interferes with your everyday life. For example when a person goes to sleep, it will take a few hours before you hear from them again. If they have to walk for a while or search a room, it will also take a few minutes or hours. These time frames vary from case to case, so you are forced to play over the course of several days. But don’t worry, if they get to a point, where they need your assistance you do not have to respond immediately. If you cannot play for a while the characters won’t die, so you’re free to wait with your decision as long as you want to. They wait for you. As I said, the conversations, the decisions and the games themselves become a part of your every day life. It becomes real.
At this point the games clearly profit from their simplicity. It’s all in your head and the more you create this world with your imagination, and the more you open yourself to the game, the more you get involved with the protagonists. But there is a downside to it too. With every single decision you make, you guide the characters through their world. And without giving too much away, if you give them bad advice, they will die.
At this stage you can rewind the story to a certain point and alter your choice. But because of the bonding with the characters, their deaths will affect you. You want to get them to safety and if you fail to do so, well, lets just say it does not feel so good. The more bad choices you make for them, the more they question your abilities and as a result, you question your own decisions. It’s a truly thrilling experience.
I recommend to play the games in chronological order, because sometimes you have the same protagonists and they tell you of former adventures. So to avoid any spoilers, I advise the order above. But if you are somewhat like me and after the first game you are addicted, you’ll play three or more games at the same time.
The cool thing is, if you start with the first game and then continue with the last one, you can see the evolution of the game itself. The conversations get deeper and you have to decide more often how you want to interact with the characters. The authors are fantastic and the dialogues are really great.
Play it! On iOS the games cost about $2 and they are absolutely worth it. Great story, excellent dialogue, and did I mention the simplicity of the soundtrack which will rob you of your sleep?