Lifeline, by Three Minute Games, is essentially a simplified version of classic text-only interactive fiction.
And right out of the gate, it does a great job with presenting the player with a high tension situation that’s under their (limited) control. The atmospheric sound design and effects, the delay between messages, and the writing all contribute to the game’s unique vibe, and success.
However, the game is designed to put you in the position of a 2nd party decision maker, which isn’t itself an issue and is fairly unique actually. Your “rescue-ee” though, has no defiant characteristics, or really any narrative motivation to listen to and follow your every direction. So, essentially, you are in charge of what happens when a decision needs to be made; there’s no discussion between characters about it, and no control over what happens between situations.
Although I haven’t played every single option or scenario through, I think it’s what I’ll call a binary narrative game. Every “choice” you make in the game either tips your “save the astronaut” scale a little more toward success, or a little more toward failure. Enough “success” choices, and you win; too many “failure” choices, and he dies. Binary decisions are fine, if it is that you distill down a situation and there really are only two general things someone might choose say. However, if you’re simply forcing someone down certain paths by only allowing them to say 1 of 2 things, then why even make something that’s interactive, really? It may as well be a visual stylized book then.
One very unique aspect of this game, though, is that it may be one of the only games I’ve ever played that actually forces you to stop playing it at certain points. And that’s an extremely alluring thing, particularly when its narratively driven, as in this case (Free-to-play games have been “forcing” us to stop playing for years, but that’s a terrible variation on this, while we wait for timers to count down that didn’t ever need to be included in the first play, chiefly to bleed money from players).
Tomorrow I’ll have a look into how I might personally edit this unique game design style to something slightly more dynamic.
[ Today I Was Playing: Disney Infinity 2.0 and Assassin’s Creed Rogue ]
October 22, 2015