“Has Taylor texted yet? Is he ok?”
The premise of 3 Minute Games‘s “Lifeline” is that an astronaut has crash-landed on some unknown planet and needs your help. Most of his gear has been totaled, but he’s managed to put enough together to send simple text messages in hopes that some stranger can help him survive.
Through use of pop-up notifications and clever writing, the game really nails the feeling of texting with a lost astronaut. I’m not usually a fan of text based games, but as we got into it, my wife and I became really entrenched in the unfolding story, which get’s spread out into little segments over time. Fans of “The Martian” will find plenty of similarities between Taylor and Mark Watney. Particularly their sarcastic since of humor.
“We talked about how ‘hard,’ or plausibly realistic, the science fiction should be, and how that would affect the plot as well.” says Mars Jokela, the game’s lead designer. “Andy Weir’s The Martian figured into this quite a bit (we’re all HUGE fans of the book and it shows).”
I expected to play the game all in one sitting, but the game tries to create a real-time vibe by spreading events out. IE, when Taylor goes to sleep, you won’t hear from the game for 8 hours. This bugged me at first, but became really compelling for me later on. “I wonder how Taylor’s hike is going. He should be halfway to the capsule by now.” Breaking the game up also turned it into bite-sized chunks that are more playable throughout the week.
As far as my adventure goes, I accidentally killed Taylor this morning. The game is so immersive that I was originally considering leaving him dead. I liked the permanence of it. I made a bad decision and it cost an astronaut his life… but by tomorrow morning I’ll probably have changed my mind and will use the “rewind” option to give him different advice (and probably end up killing him again a few days later).
Lifeline is available for Android or iOS (including Apple Watch support) for just $.99. I suggest playing it in it’s default real-time mode and allowing notifications (which really add to the experience).