One of the most active messaging conversations I’m having right now is with a high school student named Taylor who’s currently stranded on an unknown moon in the middle of space. He recently fell into crater and sprained his ankle, which was partially my fault.
Lifeline is a game for the iPhone and iPad that puts users in the shoes of someone who happens to be on the receiving end of a signal from outer space. Taylor, the character whom players communicate with, has crashed on his way to Tau Ceti IV. The moon’s atmosphere is (luckily) breathable, but aside from that, he’s alone – and he’s looking to the player for advice.
From there, players have to navigate a series of binary choices about what Taylor should do with his time. Should he try to sleep in the cold husk of his crashed ship, or keep warm by the radiation-laden engine?
Apple Watch users are also in for a surprise – the game is designed to work with Apple’s new wearable device. It’s actually the perfect form factor for Lifeline, since Taylor speaks in text-message-length snippets that are easily readable on the Watch’s screen, and all of the binary choices are selected by tapping one button or another. Those people who don’t have a Watch will get all of Taylor’s updates in the form of push notifications to their device that they can interact with to respond to his questions.
All of the answers come in real time, so there are often delays when Taylor is busy hiking from one part of the moon to another, or just trying to wrench a door open.
Text adventure fans will feel right at home with Lifeline. People who cut their gaming teeth on the likes of “Zork” and “Adventure” will feel right at home, though a little bare because they won’t have the full range of interface options available to them. Throughout my gameplay, I often found the binary choice system perfectly adequate, though there were a few times that I wished I had access to a broader universe of choices.
On the Apple Watch, though, only having to choose between two buttons makes a lot of sense, and works very well, especially given the Watch’s small screen.
One of the things that fascinated me most about the game is how much of an emotional connection I had to Taylor, despite the fact that he’s essentially a pre-programmed set of speech bubbles showing up on my wrist. Dave Justus, the game’s writer, has done an excellent job with his character, and the use of a familiar messaging system helps build a connection in ways that I didn’t expect going into playing the game.
Overall, Lifeline is an engaging adventure, both for people who are able to take advantage of the Apple Watch, and those who aren’t. It’s definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for a new game to play in spare moments here and there.
Lifeline is available for $2.99 from the iOS App Store.