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Published 28.06.2022 00:00
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Lifeline: Beside You in Time review

Lifeline: Beside You in Time is the fourth game in a text adventure series by 3 Minute Games. It follows the adventures of Taylor, a lone interstellar explorer who has a knack for getting into predicaments that only you, a remote companion known as a Lifeline, can help guide him through. You don't need to know any of this background to dive straight into Lifeline: Beside You in Time, an approachable and kind of silly choose-your-own adventure that hangs its hat on its real-time pacing.

Space station story

Beside You in Time wastes no time throwing you into the action. The game opens with a text exchange between you and someone asking you if you had lost track of two astronauts. This kicks off an adventure where you find you are speaking to a space station AI that happened to have found Taylor and a companion floating unconscious in their cargo bay.

As a lifeline, you don't have direct visuals or control of this entire adventure, but as you talk to the station (and eventually the astronauts) you have agency in determining their next moves and uncovering how Taylor wound up where he is, who he is with, and what secrets lie in wait upon the station.

Real-time restarts

One of the unique aspects of the Lifeline series is the pace at which they are told. Beside You in Time is like previous entries in that--by default--the game has built-in pauses to the story where you are left with no option but to wait. This is often a result of something story-related, like Taylor needing time to perform a task or get some rest after some harrowing experience, for example.

When the action resumes, you get a push notification on your phone, and the proceeding events play out in reaction to the choices you have made in terms of driving Taylor and his journey forward. Sometimes, you'll have made wise choices that let your progress toward your end goal get ever closer, though others could result in Taylor getting seriously injured or killed. If you reach any of these dead ends, Beside You in Time provides a checkpointing system that lets you rewind and make different choices until you reach your own satisfying conclusion.

Writing choices

The pauses in Lifeline: Beside You in Time give a somewhat satisfying pacing to the game, allowing you to play it in substantial chunks over the course of a few days. This adds a somewhat realistic feeling to the game while still feeling convenient (as you don't have a time limit on when you need to make decisions by). That said, it feels like all of this is set up to create some amount of tension or suspense, but I felt very little of either through my playthrough of Beside You in Time.

A lot of this has to do with the quippy dialogue that undercuts most of the game's drama. Characters in life or death situations may get a little punchy (especially in campy genre fiction), but the writing here never really switches out of that mode for long enough to bring gravitas to the game events.

It also doesn't help that some choices in Beside You in Time can lead to pretty random outcomes. I started the adventure running into several death endings fairly quickly and it seemed mostly as a result of me trying to get more information about an option which triggered a decision I wasn't prepared to make. The checkpointing at the beginning of the game in particular is no fun to deal with as early deaths force you to start the whole game over again. Luckily, once I bumbled my way through the opening scene I had no trouble then proceeding directly to what seems to be the best ending without any other problems.

The bottom line

Lifeline: Beside You in Time is an entertaining text adventure that feels oddly weightless. Perhaps its stakes are easier to grasp with prior experience with the Lifeline series, or maybe this is the kind of thing you want. In any case, I somewhat enjoyed my time with it, even though the early fail states were bothersome and I never really felt connected with Taylor in any meaningful way.

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