The advent of freemium gaming has led inextricably to many a title being played at a snail pace, as users seek to avoid shelling out cash for in-game currency to speed up progress. Lifeline (£2.39, 3 minute games, iOS) may take its time to unravel – but here it is a deliberate gaming mechanic, not a cheap cash grab.
A text-based piece of interactive fiction, it starts with a message from a stranded astronaut, Taylor. Anxious, fractious and sarcastic, crucially he feels like a real person as you are offered a selection of responses to help him as he tries to work out a way off the mysterious rock on to which his ship has crashed. Offer a gentle piece of sympathy, or give him firm encouragement to get on with the task at hand? Each option has definite consequences that drive the story forward in different directions. And there are hours between Taylor’s responses. He’ll pop off to investigate a crash site leaving you… well, just hanging on the end of your phone, waiting to see what he has found and how he’s coping.
The story develops over at least three days – more if your responses to him aren’t instant – and once it’s completed you can hop back to different points to see what would have happened if you’d just sent him to look for survivors rather than focus on re-establishing contact with Earth. It’s engrossing fare, which encourages real empathy with a character conjured from nothing more than a few short text messages.
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