How do you keep a jaded gamer engaged on the small-screened Apple Watch? Strand a young astronaut on an alien moon and ask that gamer to keep the doomed traveler alive.
That’s exactly what happens in Lifeline, which is simply the best game I’ve played on the Apple Watch so far.
Written by Dave Justus (who co-wrote Fables: The Wolf Among Us), the game starts out with you connecting to a far-off radio signal. It’s Taylor, a young student who was selected to study rats in space. The mission goes horribly wrong and Taylor reaches out to anyone who can hear him — namely, you.
He asks for your help in figuring out what to do next. The entire game plays out in text, with a choice every so often. Do you have Taylor look for survivors or food first? What do you do when he finds his dead crew mates? Where should he look for food, and where should he sleep?
Every so often, Talyor’s communications will go dark: He’s busy trying to follow your instructions. Lifeline convinces you that you’re working with this guy in real time.
Taylor is charming, smart and terrified — a heady combination that works well with this gameplay mechanic and game structure. The first time I played through Lifeline, poor Taylor froze to death overnight. I was devastated and couldn’t wait to get back to the game to try again.
If you’ve got a taste for innovative interactive fiction gaming, Lifeline is one you must try. Like any Apple Watch game, you can also play it on your iPhone, but the effect isn’t the same. Getting notifications throughout the day from Taylor brings a fascinating reality to the whole experience.
From developer 3 Minute Games and publisher Big Fish Games, Lifeline is available for $2.99 right now.
Seriously, download Lifeline from the App Store and save Taylor’s life — he’ll thank you for it.