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PS2 Review - 'Lifeline'

by Hank on March 27, 2004 @ 2:20 a.m. PST

Lifeline is a heart-pounding action adventure set high above Earth in the futuristic surroundings of a space station hotel. Players will begin LifeLine by finding themselves mysteriously trapped in the hotel’s security monitor room. In the first-ever voice activated action adventure, players must work together with their virtual partner by verbally directing them through numerous obstacles and challenges including deadly duels with horrifying creatures.

Genre : Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: SCEI
Release Date: March 2, 2004

Buy 'LIFE LINE': PlayStation 2

What is Konami? According to their website, Konami is defined as being “committed to leading the way toward the future of entertainment. Our mission is to continue innovating, continue pushing the boundaries of creativity and technology, and continue building some of the best games and entertainment products in the world.” And boy do they live up to their mission statement, from DDR (who would have expected a dancing game to garner so much hype) to Karaoke Revolution and finally their newest limit breaker, Lifeline.

Lifeline is probably one of the most interesting additions to Konami’s line. Who would have ever thought of a voice-only game? A game that literally allows you to drop the control and throw it against the wall… okay, maybe that is a bad idea, but you get my point. Konami has tried its best and included a thousand words and phrases to make the game as versatile and enjoyable as possible. Moving in the game is all voice-activated; a simple Locker or similar word will move Rio to that location. In order to see the available areas, you will need to toggle the map. Once the place has been recognized, Rio will walk to that spot, if you want her to move faster, you can tell her to run after speaking the name of the location (nice move, Konami). So let’s start our mission and help our friend Rio.
Rio is the main character for this game, the star waitress you are helping to escape the station alive. Whose also helping the operator (you) find your missing girlfriend (Naomi). So how did you and these others wind up in this predicament? It began with the invitation to the grand opening of the space station hotel. The date is Dec 24th 2029, the opening day of the Space Hotel JSL. Festooned with detailed décor and bustling with elaborate celebrations, the Space Hotel is a very glamorous place, only to have an uninvited guest crash the opening party.

They are suddenly under attack from an unknown species classified as aliens who are destroying the base and killing all humans in sight. It’s a fight for survival, and only a lucky few are still alive, fending for their lives against the grotesque monsters: leeches, caterpillars, crawlers, frogs, and gremlins. These monsters all have distinguishable characteristics, attacks, and weaknesses which you should try to exploit in order to defeat the creatures with ease. The leeches’ weak point seems to be the stomach, for the caterpillars the eyes, crawlers the mouth, eye and tongue, frogs the stomach, and gremlins the eye or mouth. Hitting these weak points will take away more life, giving Rio a greater chance of survival. If you can’t hit these weak points, though, it’s wise to continue attacking because it stuns the creature, allowing you to wait for other openings.

If you can’t find the opening, it is important to keep Rio on a tight leash, informing her to heal, flee, dodge or move out of the way. It feels quite odd to me that you are telling her how to evade, since if I were to encounter these enemies, I would react on my own. In contrast to this illogical expectation in the evasion mechanism, the attacking system is quite robust. It tells Rio where to attack and indicates her next destination, which in the operator's third-person view, offers a wider viewing range and allows us to find enemies' weaknesses and objects of interest that may be hidden in a first-person perspective. Finding the objects is probably the easiest part of the game, though. Actually telling Rio to interact with them is the real downfall of the game.

For example, on a table there will be cups, magazines, a blue object, and maybe more. Let’s say you want to look at the blue object. Sometimes, the game will misinterpret you and believe that you want to check the lockers. And boy, will you get annoyed when that happens. After trying every possible combination of words to get Rio to look at the item I was trying to describe, I eventually give up and turned to the strategy guide. Once you say the name of the object, it’s so much easier to check out. I just wish there was a simpler way to tell Rio which object you were referring to. What I would like even more is to be able to use the Dualshock controller and point at the object that I want Rio to examine, or maybe even a keyword where Rio will tell you all the objects of interest in that location (“Tell me all of the objects on the table,” or something of that sort).

Even though it lacks such a keyword, the other keywords in the game are greatly appreciated. Words such as “auto-fire,” “strafe,” and even “sexy pose” make the game that much easier. Okay, “sexy pose” isn’t really necessary, but hey, got to please the gamers. However, not all of these keywords are available at first; you literally need to find these words throughout the course of the game. Finding them isn’t that difficult of a task since all objects of interest will be flashing white. You can use the word once you’ve read it, and if you don’t know what words you can use, you can always toggle the screen by hitting the R2 button. This shows a wide list of available words, but my personal favorites are “auto-fire” and “strafe,” since they allow Rio to fire on the enemy on her own accord. Other keywords of interest are “she says” and “category game.” These two keywords are great time-killers, short mini-games that you can play with Rio. I have to say, though, that I suck at tongue twisters, and “she says” is a challenge where you repeat three tongue twisters after Rio. If you succeed, Rio will regain life. To me, “category game” is more enjoyable, a game in which Rio names a category, and you two battle it out to see who knows more names of the category. I lost the first time I played, but it was a battle of the states, and I repeated one. I should have won.

Well, these games aren’t the only dilemmas you will face. There are several puzzles that you must break before you can move on, like finding the keys to locks, moving objects in the right order, discerning chemical formulas, and more. These puzzles all need interaction with the operator, especially the locks. In order to open the locks, the operator actually requires the control. Yes, although it says you don’t need a controller, you do need it for opening doors and locks. The locks I hate the most are the voice-activated ones. Gah, I can’t believe how long I spent with Rio trying to repeat the same phrase with her at the same time. Thankfully, there aren’t many audio passwords, or else I may be stuck in that situation for hours. However, I do find this password lock to be very innovative; since we see it so many times in movies, it was a great idea to try out, and now I know I’ll most likely hate them if it were to become reality.

So how do we know when to repeat the audio password? Well, the computer AI asks the woman and the man to repeat the audio phrase, first the woman and then the man, and then together. The AI isn’t the only one giving you vocal directions you will also receive some from the other characters. A majority of the voice actors aren’t fit for their characters; to be honest, some of the voices were very odd, but all of the major characters have respective voices that match their appearances. Voices such as the ambassador’s seem stiff, not as fluid as people talk in real life. On the other hand, Rio's voice was outstanding, and it compensates for the others. Well if Rio’s doesn’t compensate you may enjoy the techno tracks that are played throughout the station, giving us a sense of outer space and changes whenever Rio enters a new portion of the station.

Each portion of the station has different décor. The best ones were probably the guest rooms, which are decorated to please the guests. Some of the rooms (especially the suites) look amazing, boasting two stories filled with intricate furniture, chandeliers and maybe more. But perhaps one of the best features of the game is Rio; yes, she looks pretty good, and her features seem almost realistic. She blinks whenever needed, and her facial expressions change. I’ve gotten the cold shoulder from her before – it wasn’t a very pleasant sight. Rio also has two costumes which you will unlock as the game progresses. The second one is an army body suit. Well, instead of taking the time to check out Rio, you should pay more attention to the monsters. The enemies give a sense of realism albeit the fact that they are aliens. They are detailed to the point that you can understand why the people on the JSL would be afraid of them. Although the space station is in the future, the devices on it don’t seem as advanced as they should be, but it may be due to the fact that it’s a hotel where traditional style is more appreciated.

Overall, I thought the game was fun to play, with one downside: not enough recognized words. As I’ve said, I had a hard time trying to get Rio to do exactly what I wanted. Aside from that, the battle system was pretty solid, mixing up timing requirements and hitting the enemy at the right spots. I also love the fact that there is no ammo. The voice recognition system works very well, reacting instantaneously to the spoken command (if understood). The idea was really interesting and well-portrayed, but if only they had added the keywords I mentioned above, this would be a solid hit. I say give this game a try, it is very innovative and can be a lot of fun. Personally, I never thought talking to an AI could be so entertaining. I give Konami props for taking a leap and bringing this type of game out in the States, and I hope they add that keyword (search the location and inform us of what is there) if they do release another one. Maybe then, we gamers won’t go crazy when Rio runs somewhere else. Oh, as a warning this game will cause you to lose your voice over long periods of play, so prepare cough drops or talk softly. Shoot Shoot Shoot...

Score : 8.0/10

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