Most video game developers play it safe when it comes to creating new concepts, or trying think outside of the box. Not that this is an inherently bad thing, but it does create a saturation of titles that are oh-so close in their likelihood, they might as well be brothers. Thinking up fresh ways of showing the same narrative, with the mechanics from another game, and the music from another, isn’t exactly easy though. Lifeline however, adds a unique spin to an idea that most MMO’s abuse. It then manages to make everything worse.

With little to no introduction, you’re thrown into a situation whereby a series of messages start pouring onto your screen. After trying to keep up with the breakneck pace at which they appear, two options will appear, awaiting your input. Upon pressing either of these options, the messages start to flow again. To make things a little clearer, in Lifeline the player is an intergalactic radio monitor who manages to contact a crashed astronaut from a distant world. This entire idea is actually very neat. It’s not too large in its scale, it makes you care about the survivor in question (called Taylor) and handles the atmosphere with care.

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Everything seems like a nice slice of life until the words “it’ll take me about an hour to walk there”, appear on screen. And thus, the player is introduced to Lifeline’s only gimmick. Every message that involves a wait period, makes the radio master wait in real time. While this is all well and good for the characters in the game, making the player wait for an hour after just introducing them to a potentially interesting character is a terrible move. It totally alienates the sense of gameplay, and forces an interaction that would be so much easier to enjoy if you didn’t have to wait literal hours between the messages.

Even if you’re attached to Taylor and genuinely invested in his situation, the game does about as much as you’d expect to aid your talking options. Every back-and-forth option consists of only two pressable buttons on the screen. Most life threatening dilemmas are a little more complex than just two choices. This doesn’t change throughout the entire game either. Some situations the player is presented with wouldn’t be half as hard if you could just select another option to help Taylor with.

Lifeline almost comes complete with no graphics, animations beyond the messages loading up, and a ‘fast’ mode where you can cut the wait times. This feature, you’d assume, would solve the boredom factor that inevitably weighs in as you’re playing. It doesn’t. If anything, that mode ruins the one interesting thing about the game, the solid (albeit annoying) mechanic that could have been built upon for a unique experience. While Lifeline makes an effort to break the gaming mould, it manages to miss its mark by a few miles and ends up in the abyss, floating eternally in gaming purgatory.

Lifeline – 42/100

Written by Matt Dawson

Developer – 3 Minute Games
Publisher – Big Fish Games
Genre – Casual, Stimulation, Indie, Strategy
Release date – 17th March 2017
Website – http://www.bigfishgames.com/daily/3mingames/lifeline

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