Lifeline – a text-based adventure game for mobile, based on the classic text adventures, but given a bit of a modern twist. The question is, is it worth your time? If you’re old like me, you’ll have fond memories of text adventure classics like The Guild of Thieves, released in 1987 for the Amstrad.
If you’re old like me, you’ll have fond memories of text adventure classics like The Guild of Thieves, released in 1987 for the Amstrad or The Hobbit for the Sinclair, released in 1982. Wow – I’m OLD! But some of these retro games really were awesome. There’s plenty of current online text RPGs and adventures, too, like Materia Magika and The Dark Grimoire, and ones that have really stood the test of time, like Avalon. So text adventures have been around for a while – but mobile text adventures are, at the moment, a bit of a novelty. They’ve been around for a while – but with limited success. Lifeline is the latest – and was the free app of the week on the iStore last week, so I thought I’d take the chance to download it and reminisce over the hours I spent typing commands and directions, trying to solve puzzles and successfully guide y given character safely to his destination.
So, basically, this guy makes contact – his ship has crashed in outer space in an unknown location on a desert moon, most of his crew are dead, and you’re the only person he can raise for help. It’s your job to keep him safe. Now, this is where we break away from the norm – Taylor, the survivor, is a little hysterical – and has an interesting sense of humor – and a fondness for sarcasm. Also, unlike the traditional text adventure, where you deliver commands like “east” “west” “examine” “take” at every turn, the choices are limited – for every decision you’re asked to make, there’s only two choices – and they’re often quite random. Plus, when Taylor doesn’t like your decision – he definitely lets you know.
The story runs over several days – assuming you don’t kill him off. If you do kill him, you get the option to rewind the story to the dawn of the previous day. For most of the game, progress is quite slow – until you get toward the end, then it’s nonstop action. If you play the game in “normal” mode, which is the way it’s supposed to be played, it’ll last you several days, and Taylor will pop up on your device periodically, describing what’s going on and waiting for your next instruction. If you accidentally kill him – or if you’re bored of waiting – you can activate “fast forward” mode, which eliminates the wait time that you’d normally experience when Taylor is busy. This is super useful if, like me, you made a wrong decision the first time around and Taylor dies. Then you can rewind to the dawn of the previous day, activate fast forward, and quickly get through all the action you’ve already witnessed once. When you arrive at a new section, you can simply deactivate fast forward.
Unlike many of the beloved retro and newer online text adventures, there’s no graphics or illustrations – it’s pure text. However, for a mobile adventure, it’s reasonably compelling. I found myself checking my iPad more frequently than normal, to see if I had any updates from my sarcastic, needy, outer-space pal. You can also connect the game to your Apple watch or other smartwatch.
All in all, this game is an enjoyable diversion. The character is engaging and I even Googled something when he asked me to! It’s too short to be an “in it for the long haul” type of game – but for something a bit different from the average mobile shoot-em-up or match-3 that doesn’t take toooo long to complete, Lifeline is a great choice. And, if you find you really enjoy it and want to stay with Taylor, there’s more adventures you can download.