‘Lifeline’ talks you into stupor

“Lifeline,” the new survival horror game from Konami, provides a mixed and ultimately disappointing experience. It’s the second game to feature the headset, and while “Karaoke Revolution” showed the freedoms of the technology, “Lifeline” shows its limitations. What emerges is a game that’s interesting as a tech demo but boring and often infuriating as a video game.

The story setup is decent. The game opens on a futuristic space station turned hotel. After an attack by some strange organisms, your character blacks out and wakes up in a security room that’s been locked down. Through a security monitor you see Ryo, an unassuming waitress that you can communicate with via headset.

This is the major premise of the game. Short of opening a few electronic doors, speaking is your only control. It’s a very novel concept, and it works well for the first few minutes. After that, some serious design issues make themselves all too apparent.

One of the issues pops up in the first few minutes of gameplay. Ryo sees some drink vending machines, and a sparkle in one of the dispenser trays – an item is there. Without saying the exact thing Ryo needs to hear, she won’t check the appropriate place. It took me 30 minutes just to get her to check one of the trays. This comes up in other areas; the player won’t always know exactly what the name of the object is.

Another caveat is that Ryo won’t do anything on her own accord. This is especially grating during battle. She needs to be told to shoot every time or she won’t attack. She won’t even bat off alien slugs that attach to her neck unless she’s told to.

Also, every time you tell her to go somewhere, there’s a period where you aren’t allowed to give her any instructions. This doesn’t seems so bad, except that if Ryo mishears you and starts off towards another area, that time period is often used to scream a line of obscenities. Sometimes she leaves the room altogether, forcing the player to wait through a loading screen before anything can be done.

These problems get worse and worse as the game progresses. Monsters get incredibly hard to battle, and there are even jumping puzzles – maddening, infuriating jumping puzzles.

Some features would’ve helped the problem. A repeat button to keep the player from saying the same thing over and over again would’ve been nice – even a cancel feature would’ve been appreciated.

Better yet, the designers should’ve realized the limitations of the technology and programmed around it, reducing the difficulty of the battles and taking out the instant death puzzles.

This game may be worth a rental, just to play with for an hour or so. Any longer than that and the tedium and frustration of the game will make it thoroughly unenjoyable.

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