Lifeline is a TellTale Game in micro. Much like its larger cousins, the game derives its narrative power through skillful use of dialogue and character building. While there are many story-based games in the Apple store, this one is tailored specifically for mobile phone and Apple Watch users.

This is a text-based adventure game that conveys action through messages sent to the phone. All the action is conveyed through dialogue, but its interface conveys a specific atmosphere. The interface looks like something out of an ‘80s sci-fi movie with its pitch-black screen and sterile green text; it invokes movies like Aliens or The Abyss wherein the worst news was delivered by bulky computer monitors.

The game follows Taylor, an astronaut who appears to be the lone survivor of a spaceship crash on a distant moon. What makes Taylor relatable is that she is a science student there by chance and not some some soldier that is prepared for this kind of situation. The player provides her only attachment to civilization and it’s clear that she needs support from both a practical and an emotional standpoint. Taylor needs guidance through a litany of dangerous situations not necessarily from an expert, but from someone that is impartial and removed from a stressful situation. It’s also evident from the conversation that she simply needs someone to talk to combat the loneliness as fear.

LifelineSecondary

The dialogue is what sets Lifeline apart from other games in this genre and so much of how Taylor feels is expressed through subtext. Taylor expresses a genuine sense of trepidation and fear when asked to explore a derelict space craft or go down a dark hallway by asking to reaffirm the choice two or three times before moving. Even then, she may crack some joke to relieve some tension before braving danger. Some of the banter reveals a sense of longing for something familiar as Taylor cracks jokes about Disney movies or the amount of sex in HBO shows.

The choices in Lifeline are simple: Telling Taylor to explore a moon crater, find an alternate path around a boulder blocking the way or whether it’s okay to sleep under the still-warm ship reactor.

The game does not need cellular data, but is designed to be played over the span of several days. Every interaction is short and sweet often concluding in a matter of minutes, but Taylor reaches out several times per day at irregular intervals. After making a choice, the game goes on pause for a while as she goes to work. This built in wait feels justified, creating a palpable sense of anticipation. As the day goes on, it’s difficult not to wonder how things are going for Taylor. The rhythm of Lifeline’s narrative changes throughout the day, speeding up as the story reaches exciting points and slowing down as she goes through the mundane task. The slice of life nature of the game adds a sense of immersion to the experience and makes it relatable.

LifelineTertiery

My lone criticism of this game is the sometimes unrealistic nature of how the information is conveyed. Given that this game is text based, Taylor is the narrator and the sole purveyor of information. This poses a problem when things get exciting because she is needed to describe what’s going on, but remembering to talk to her friend while fleeing mortal danger isn’t all that realistic. There are moments when the narrative gets clunky as Taylor comes across as overly didactic at the wrong moments.

Lifeline is a unique and skillful use of its medium to tell its story. It takes into the account the habits of its users and crafts a story that is compelling in large part because the barrier of entry is so low. It only demands a few minutes to get through a scenario or too and when that’s combined with an interesting premise and sound storytelling, the result is a rewarding experience.

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

Related Posts