Lifeline 2 (3 Minute Games)

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I just have to grab a few things on my way back to New Tenacity.

Artifacts, you know. Objects of intense mystical power. The usual.

Lifeline 2 is a sequel in form, not in content, to the tremendously successful Lifeline from earlier this year. Lifeline was one of the first games to work on the Apple Watch, which may have helped get it the spotlight, but it did a number of other things well: a clean attractive text interface, a good use of delays and notifications, and a story about a convincingly endangered protagonist.

It also demonstrated a game format that was plainly reusable. Lifeline makes the protagonist a separate character who is reaching out to the player for help — a strategy that deals immediately with gaps between player and protagonist knowledge, and explains occasions when the protagonist won’t do what the player wants. It allows for strongly characterized narrative with a definite voice.

It’s not by any means the first game to do any of these things. There are classic parser IF games with strongly-characterized narrators (Lost Pig, Violet, anything by Robb Sherwin). There are assorted games that consist purely of back-and-forth conversation (Fail-Safe, The McFarlane Job, Hana Feels, Coming Out Simulator 2014, assorted others) or use some other method to pry apart the protagonist and the player-character into two separate entities. And there are other forms of interactive story that make use of notifications and real-time delays, from ARGs and email-enhanced game concepts to the delayed events in Fallen London. But Lifeline put these together in a particularly effective way and demonstrated how others might do likewise.

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