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    Lifeline

    Game » consists of 3 releases. Released Mar 02, 2004

    Lifeline is a game for the Playstation 2 in which players use a unique voice command system to help two people survive an alien invasion.

    fnord's Lifeline (PlayStation 2) review

    Avatar image for fnord

    Recognition is different than Understanding

    Let me first start off by apologizing. I’m sorry Rio, I don’t mean to yell at you and get angry, but you just don’t listen. I mean, I try, really, I try, to help you out, but when you don’t do what I tell you to do, or do something completely wrong, it upsets me… and… sometimes… I let the monsters hit you… on purpose. I’m sorry.

    Lifeline is a new kind of survival horror game, with a twist. In Lifeline, you do not actually control the main character, Rio, directly, instead you give her voice commands and she tries to figure out what you told her and then does something completely different. The concept is an interesting one, and one that is almost ready for prime time, as this game demonstrates, but still has a few glitches to work out.

    As for the plot, it’s pretty far-fetched. Ok, get this: You’re on a hotel, in space, and it’s some 25 years in the future. No, that’s not the far-fetched part. The part that’s difficult to believe is that in this game you have a girlfriend, and, to top that off, you have to spend the entire game talking to another girl. It’s like a 10 year old’s ultimate nightmare. The girl you talk through this game is named Rio, and she’s a waitress in this space hotel, and she’s trying to find a reporter, and help you find your girlfriend. A concept of gamers, first off, having a girlfriend, and then having to talk to another girl, and more than just telling her about their 10th level Rogue/Magic User, is pretty far-fetched.

    The speech recognition feature of this game is by far the most important part, so, of course, I will talk about everything but that first. The graphics in the game are standard PS2 graphics, and there’s nothing spectacular about them. Most of the areas of the game are well lit and functional, so you won’t have to strain to see the main character, or any monsters attacking her. Sound in the game is fine; the music, if there is any, is forgettable, and the constant rush of air and machinery lends a good feeling to being in a big pressurized torus which is screaming through space at a speed which would make most test pilots feel woozy.

    Rio herself is voiced by Kristen Miller, apparently one of the stars of ‘She Spies’ (check your local listings). Although I’ve never actually seen her show, she does a fairly good job. The game won’t be winning any awards for voice acting, but the voice acting is competent, and hundreds of times better than some other games that I could mention.

    Now, as far as the gameplay goes, this is directly influenced by the speech recognition. The game plays a bit like a mix between Resident Evil and Zork, having to interact with items using simple commands, and fighting monsters which are, honestly, not all that scary. As far as interacting with items, you will have to tell Rio to go to a specific area of the room, e.g. “Go to the Table”, all of which are labeled in an overlay map you have access to. Once at the table, there will be highlighted items which you can tell Rio to interact with, if you can get her to figure out what you mean. This is easily the most frustrating area of the game.

    As an example: Rio is standing in front of a dresser with a purse sitting on the table.

    Player: “Look at Purse.”

    Rio: “Leave the room? Ok.” She starts to leave the room.

    Player: “NO! *grumble* Stop!”

    Rio: “Ok.” She stops.

    Player: “Go To Dresser.”

    Rio: “The Dresser. Ok.” Rio returns to the dresser.

    Player: “Look… At… Purse.” Rio: “Leave the room? Ok.” Rio again begins to leave the room.

    Player: “AAARRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!”

    Often times it seems that the game is looking for some very specific words to get Rio to do certain things. Unfortunately the game refuses to tell you what those are. In one particularly frustrating part of the game, you have to get Rio to look in different drink dispenser slots, and she will easily check three of the four, except for the one you want her to check. If Rio were to ask more questions when she was unsure, and give the players more prompting as to what they can say to get her to go to a specific area, this game would have little problems with the search and discover part of the game. Sadly, it doesn’t, so you will be forced to take various shots in the dark till you either come up with something Rio can understand, or you give up in frustration.

    Combat is also handled with the voice interface, and can get quite heated at times. Unfortunately, if you’re the type of person who gets excited by combat, this will reduce your ability to enunciate clearly enough for Rio to understand you. It also seems that Rio has a problem differentiating between left and right, quite like me, but it makes me wonder when you tell her to dodge left, she dodges right, and then SAYS that she’s dodging right. Other than that, you give instructions to Rio as to which enemy to shoot, what part of the monster to shoot, when to reload, flee, heal, etc. Combat eventually begins to sound like the multiple-choice answers on an anatomy final, “TONGUE! STOMACH! MOUTH! FORE LEG! LEFT EYE!” etc. However, all in all, the combat system seems to work with little difficulty, and is fairly enjoyable.

    At the end, I would say that this game is enjoyable, but frustrating at times. The mini-games they have included in the game are fun, and a good distraction. However, at its core, this is a gimmicky game which does require a USB headset for it to work. The game does show how far speech recognition has come, but it also shows how far it has to go. In the end, I give this game 2 headsets… That is, two headsets which have been thrown at the TV and broken because she won’t check the 3rd stall, no matter how many times you try to rephrase the request.

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