Dave Justus is no stranger to writing video games, having written both Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us adventure game for Mac, PC and console, as well as the original Lifeline, a text-based story game that brought the epic struggles of an astronaut named Taylor to our wrists.
With the help of 3 Minute Games’ lead game designer Mars Jokela, Justus has created another massive adventure that still fits inside your Apple Watch. This time, however, you’ll have a conversation with Arika, a young woman with magical powers who needs your help to escape mortal danger.
Lifeline 2: Bloodline is a funny, moving, and above all human story that really plays to the strengths of the Apple Watch; it’s like having a text conversation (with a cheeky magician) from your wrist.
“We’ve built Lifeline 2 to be a bigger and richer experience,” says Jokela via email, “[but] the story is still focused on a likable, relatable character who desperately needs your help.”
Apple Watch is a new playground for innovative game developers like 3 Minute Games. The combination of limitations (small screen, originally tethered to iPhone, worn on the wrist) has really forced game makers to thing outside of the iOS gaming box. Apple is even encouraging this notion with a whole new App Store section just for interesting gaming experiences on its tiny little computing device.
Lifeline 2 sets you up as the main character’s chat buddy, as if you’re talking to Arika through a magical portal. You’ll make different conversational choices and help her decide what to do when she gets in trouble, just like you did in the first game.
“When I stepped in to write the first Lifeline,” says Justus, “my initial thought was, ‘This’ll be just like writing a short story!’ And what I found, very quickly, was that it wasn’t like that at all; instead, it was like writing hundreds of short-short stories.”
Every few sentences, the story provides a new choice, and each binary split leads to another split, and so on. It can get quite unmanageable. The solution was to plan out a few story nodes — important information or an object the player needs to progress in the story — he could lead players there throughout all the branches, essentially bringing all that chaos into some sort of path.
While Lifeline 2 is not a direct sequel, the team was careful to hint that the universes between the two games might be connected.
“We felt that Taylor’s story was complete, and there was no need to put the poor kid through the wringer again,” says Jokela, referring to the protagonist of the first game.”And not to spoil anything, but you’ll see some clear connecting threads between the stories as you play—that might even allude to future games, as well.”
Playing through Lifeline 2 is just as compelling an experience as the first game was, with some added features; you’ll get to name yourself, for one, and declare a gender — all things that Arika will use to talk with you for the remainder of the game.
The other great thing about this type of Apple Watch game is that it unfolds over time. There’s no rush to get through it (though you might want to binge-read the whole thing at once like I did). You can let the story unfold over days and even weeks without ruining the flow. It’s like immersing yourself in a novel that you read a little bit each night before you sleep.
If you’ve got some time and a spare three dollars, give Lifeline 2 a try; you’ll love the interaction with the main character, and hopefully get lost in the adventure along the way.
“That’s the sort of ‘lost’ that everyone involved in these games is looking to evoke,” says Justus. “We want the challenges to be invisible, and the joys to be inescapable.”