Lifeline is a text adventure that uses iOS notifications on the Apple Watch or iPhone in a unique way, to make a compelling and enjoyable game that is quite unforgettable.
Messages from outer space
When you start the game, whatever the device, it begins with a message: "Hello? Is this thing working? Can Anyone Read me?". You are given a couple of optional responses, and it quickly becomes clear you are talking to a person called Taylor who is stranded somewhere in space. A young student, alone and scared, he or she needs your help, advice, and simply your company to try and survive.
If you enter the app on your phone, there is sparse, atmospheric music, and the text appears over a dark background. But Lifeline really works best through notifications. As Taylor explains what is going on, and asks for your help, the game introduces real time to make it feel much more real. If Taylor has to do something that will take some time, for example, you will not hear anything for a while. When it's time to sleep, you won't hear anything until tomorrow. But you know this person is in danger, and the game makes you worry about whether Taylor has been successful or survived his or her ordeals. Lifeline is probably the first game that I've been pleased to see a notification from during dinner.
A game you'll really care about
The writing is good, with nice humor and enough touching moments to help you get involved. It occasionally veers towards being a little twee, but that is forgivable. Taylor's survival relies on your choices throughout the adventure. Make the wrong choices, and Taylor will die, meaning you'll have to play through again, and try out different choices.
It's not as touching or effective the second time through, but you'll be unlikely to care when it's so gripping the first time. Lifeline is also perhaps the first game that's ideal for Apple Watch.
A text adventure for everyone
Lifeline isn't perfect, but it's one of the best and most approachable text adventures of recent years. Anyone can play and enjoy Lifeline, which is pretty impressive for a genre which usually has very limited appeal. Highly recommended.