Of all the things I was told I can be, I never thought I would ever get a chance to be a student astronaut. I mean, astronaut, yeah, I can do that, but not a student astronaut, let alone one lost in space with screaming rats and possessed humans.
Introducing Lifeline, an interactive text-based story app detailing the adventures of Taylor, a student astronaut who contacts you after Taylor’s ship crashed and is all alone. You lead the character through multiple stories, protecting this random person from the elements and whatever mysteries lie out there on this foreboding planet.
Just recently named App of the Week on the iTunes store, Lifeline was launched in April 2015 and written by Dave Justus, under 3 Minute Games LLC; the game of course being anything but. The first time you play, you abide by real time actions, like Taylor sleeping or taking an hour to walk around, and even more. Alright, so what, you ask. Well it just so happens that the story picks up right as it reaches sleepy time. You’re on the edge of your seat, you can’t tell if you made the right choice, you’ve become addicted and there’s nothing left for you to do but wait and see if he makes it out alive. This gets annoying pretty quickly, with the story line gaining suspense and you’re subjected to waiting for time to pass, twiddling your thumbs. You could do something productive, like catch up on some Netflix or get some food, but no, you sit there staring at your phone until Taylor responds.
Don’t worry, just die. That’s right, just kill Taylor off. And trust me, that’s gonna happen more often than not, sometimes intentional and sometimes in utter frustration. For the first run through, the game forces you to play it in real time, not giving you the option to speed things up. Finally, after the first time you die, the game will ask if you want to go into fast mode, despite several warnings that it is not the way that the game developers intended. But you see, you just suffered the agonizing pain of waiting for Taylor to wake up—just to find death instead. So screw what Justus and 3 Minute Games think, you’re gonna go into fast mode so you can beat the game already.
Whoops, wrong move rookie. You just committed the worst sin known to man: willingly letting yourself become addicted and brainwashed by machines. It’s the thing Harrison Ford warns us about all the time in Blade Runner, and I’m sure Big Hero 6 had something on it as well. However, you signed your death sentence, so let’s continue.
Because you now are in fast mode, you get updates and Taylor’s annoying jokes (jokes that push me up to being on-par with Tina Fey at this point) immediately, meaning no waiting for Taylor to take a long walk or to sleep or anything. Great, right? Well wrong. Not only are you now always on your screen reading the texts as they come in one by one, you now feel guilty for not checking up and see what choice you have to make next. Your addiction has won the best of you and now you’re alone in the world, secluded from everyone, much akin to Taylor’s situation. So be wise with the timing of the game, since while waiting is annoying, not being able to unglue yourself from your screen is another problem in itself.
And let’s actually talk about the game play. You are Taylor’s only communication: the space ship crashed on some random planet, no astronaut friends are alive, and Taylor’s lab mice are nowhere to be found. Oh, plus the whole “being on an alien planet with no food or shelter and basically being by yourself” thing. But you know, Taylor has you to make the decisions, so don’t screw up. You guide Taylor through the planet, deciding whether a walk to a peak or a walk to the wreck site will garner you more information about what’s happening. You make the decisions, you decide what to do and whether to risk Taylor’s life.
That’s the fascinating part of the whole thing: the game is simplistically text based, but it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ game turned horror movie. You actually fear for Taylor’s life; you have no idea what you’re going to eat tonight and now you’re entrusted with saving this random person? The game drags you in from the beginning, with the entire time causing you to always second guess yourself, asking “what if” every time you make a decision. There’s nothing that can help you until you beat it and store the app proudly for weeks afterwards because you just can’t get rid of a masterpiece of perfect answers.
Well, unless you check this Reddit.
Anyhow. . . Everything you do leads onto something else which leads to something else and so on. That’s the magic of the game. But, that’s also where it falls short. Had the game truly been a choose your own adventure, it wouldn’t force you to follow it’s formula. From what I gathered from the Reddit and my and my friends’ times dying, there are only six or so outcomes, two positive, one neutral, and three negative. And after realizing that a certain move dictates whether I live or not, I tried my best avoiding it. I would always choose the other option, and for a while, the game would follow suit. Sooner or later, however, Taylor will annoyingly return to the same option, asking you about that move. Believe me, boy have I tried repeatedly to avoid that decision, and I kept on choosing the other option. Finally the game breaks and says something along the teenage angsty lines of “I don’t care what you think, I’m going where my gut feels right.” Of course, you, having the knowledge of death beforehand, know it’s a bad idea and you’re cursing at Taylor, but still can’t get away, because it’s just so addicting.
So to conclude the massively long ramblings of a sleep deprived lunatic, Lifeline is definitely worth the dollar in the app store, available for iPhones and Androids. While there are a number of setbacks, you’ll be addicted nonetheless, and then you’ll get Lifeline 2 and start it all over again. OH! Don’t forget to turn on the volume for some extra creepy and scary breathing—and other noises.