I've been texting with a stranded astronaut!

I have always been a fan of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but outside of a free Lone Wolf app, I never really tried it packaged as a game. Honestly, I've gotten this game, because it was on sale and I've heard good things about it here and there. I was not prepared for what it offered.

You know, there are some games that break the barrier between fact and fiction. ARGs or Omikron: The Nomad Soul comes to mind. Lifeline gives you a similar experience, but delivers it in completely different and innovative way. When you open the app for the first time, you will receive a transmission from someone named Taylor, who is stranded on some good forsaken moon. The ship is crashed and you (the player) are the only person Taylor could reach. So you begin to talk.

The game is basically an interstellar chat app. Taylor writes what's up and every now and then, you can respond, give advice or even make decisions on how Taylor should approach any given task. That's it. That's all there is. No stats, no inventory, just a conversation between two strangers light years away. This alone makes the game quite immersive, but there's more...

To reinforce the fact, that Taylor is a real person, stranded on some lonely moon, the game adds an element of real time. Whenever Taylor goes off to do something you see "[Taylor is busy]" and the app stops responding. Now you can only wait. You don't know exactly when you will receive another message. Sometimes, Taylor will give you a hint "I'll report back in half an hour", but often you will have no idea. This adds to the whole immersion factor, as I found myself thinking what is Taylor doing, how is his trek, did anything interesting happened? Them, you receive a text saying "oh no" and you jump in to see what happened, because you start carrying about this stranded astronaut.

This waiting aspect, and first person narration make this much more than a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game. The barrier between what's real and what's fiction is much thinner than in other (even similar) games. It is much easier to believe that you are talking to someone light years away, than believing that you are in that place, while you are clearly sitting on your couch and drinking coffee. After a while, receiving a message from Taylor, will be almost like receiving a text from someone you know You will want to know what happened when they were away. It is a great mechanic that I am hoping to see in more "Choose Your Own Adventure" style games.

If you are thinking of getting Lifeline (iOS and Anroid), know that it is more an experience than a game. Gameplay is limited to those binary choices while you chat. It is more like a good book, but you are getting more invested in the character and can actually advise them on how to proceed. Comparing Lifeline to book is not a bad idea actually. Just like a good book, this game is a vessel to transport you to that fictional world. While the whole game takes place on a barren, almost featureless moon, the writing brings it to life. Especially, that everything is narrated from Taylor's point of view, who has pretty quirky, but relatable outlook on the whole situation. During the few days it will take you to complete the game, you will get to know Tyler pretty well. I was sad when the story finished and the communication ended. I wish I could still receive texts from this person who I helped during the shittiest time of their life.