Lifeline: Whiteout in Review – The Series Keeps Getting Better

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Whiteout is the fourth installment of the Lifeline series, following two outings in space as well as a wierd tangent in some mystical otherworld.  This time around we follow the progress of V. Adams, a man trapped in a snowy wilderness that has no idea who he is.  He’ll communicate his situation to you, and in turn you’ll give him advice as to what course of action to take next.  These games are very much like the old fashioned Choose Your Own Adventure books in that there is no inventory to keep track of or puzzles to solve.  Up until this installment that has been a big issue for me, because the lack of those elements really makes it feel like there are no consequences for your actions.  However, I finally ran into something in Whiteout that I had not experienced in this series before: death.  Amazingly, that makes a world of difference in how I perceive the games.

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Aside from Lifeline 2, which I couldn’t get into in any manner, the biggest draw to this series for me has been the writing.  I love science fiction, and Lifeline / Lifeline: Silent Night did a great job of creating an outer space epic that drew me in.  With Whiteout we have a protagonist that can’t remember his past, a mysterious helicopter crash and an “abandoned” outpost that may or may not reveal any useful details.  And that’s just the beginning of the story.  While it started off just a bit slow for me, the more I progress in the game the tougher it gets to wait for Adams to get back to me.  Besides the general lack of interaction, the other thing that has always frustrated me is the “real time” nature of the game, because when I really get into an adventure game I just like to keep playing until my time runs out and I’m forced to quit and return to real life.  I should mention that in Whiteout (the first installment where I noticed this at least) there is actually an option called Fast Mode that lets you “fast forward” through the waiting.  I must admit now that I finally have that feature, I’m reluctant to use it because I almost feel like it will cheapen the experience.  Go figure!

To “navigate” the game you simply tap one of two buttons representing the choices you can offer the protagonist.  As a result your interaction with the game is more akin to flipping the pages of a book, which stands to reason given that these games more closely resemble the old CYOA books than similar offerings from companies like Tin Man Games.  The one other feature the game does offer is the ability to “rewind” the story should you happen to die.  Supposedly this phenomenon existed in prior installments of the series, but I never experienced it until Whiteout, and now I’ve run into it several times, so I’m thankful for the rewind.  While you can’t just go back to any “page” you’d like, the farther along you are in the story the more waypoints you will be offered.  It can get frustrating making a choice you think is sound only to find that you’ve lost communication with the protagonist, but at least it gives you the sense that the options you are picking do actually make a difference in the narrative.

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The interface is pretty minimal, but then you don’t really need much for this type of game.  The one thing that is missing that is kind of disappointing is any sort of illustrations to go along with the story.  There is one drawing when the game first launches, which does happen to be pretty good, but then it’s like they are trying to really maintain the concept of you speaking to the protagonist through some sort of communicator that doesn’t allow you any sort of visible window into his world.  The sound effects are equally minimal, which I suppose isn’t surprising given the setup of the game.  At least the developers were kind enough to provide us with some background music, and it’s actually rather well written.

While I have enjoyed the two outer space outings in the Lifeline series, none of the games up to this point have gripped me like Whiteout has.  The more I get into it, the more I can wait for the next time a notification pops up telling me that Adams is once again ready for my input.  I still wish there was more interaction beyond selecting between two options each time Adams wants my advice, but with a story this intriguing I’m willing to deal with that.  I’m sure this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like an intricate tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat but need more from your experience than simply reading, this might be a great fit for you.

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App Summary
Title: Lifeline: WhiteoutDeveloper: 3 Minute Games, LLC
Reviewed Ver:1.0.2Min OS Req: iOS 8.0
Price:$1.99App Size:55.00MB
  • Most intriguing Lifeline story yet
  • While sometimes frustrating, death makes choices feel meaningful
  • Great background music
  • Interaction often feels too basic
  • No puzzles or inventory
  • No cool illustrations aside from title screen

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