Lifeline - Voice Controlled Video Game

Lifeline - Voice Controlled Video Game
Lifeline is a voice controlled video game for the PS2. You help a waitress investigate a space station, killing aliens and rescuing guests.

For most Playstation 2 users, this is the first time they'll need to buy a microphone/headset. While many XBox games (especially XBox Live) use a microphone extensively, few PS2 games have taken this step.

On first glance this seems a REALLY cool idea. You "are" a male in the game. But as a guest trapped in a monitor room, you are really "controlling" a woman, telling her what to shoot, where to check and what to do. The female character is spunky and alert, handling her gun with ease and bantering with the people she meets along the way.

The graphics are reasonably well done - the Honeymoon Suite has floor to ceiling windows that give you a nice view of earth, the rooms have an elegant, posh hotel look. There aren't rich details as in many current XBox games, but you do get a sense that you're in a space-hotel of the future.

The sounds that exist have attention to detail. As you walk across various surfaces, your footsteps change. However, usually you are just walking through an empty space-hotel so there aren't many ambient sounds, which is a shame.

But when you actually start to PLAY the game, you realize immediately the huge limitations of the voice recognition software. Your entire interface with the game is the way you speak. They begin with a tutorial which is maddening. All they say is "Good" (or "excellent") if you say the word properly, or "BAD!" if you don't say it well. They don't tell you HOW you missed - too loud? Too soft? Too high? Too low? Too fast? Too slow? I have tried this game with many different people and certain phrases - specifically "shoot shoot shoot" and another "shoot reload" sequence - could get people stuck for 10 minutes or more. The game just keeps saying "BAD" "BAD" "BAD" which gets frustrating to no end. The game seems geared towards kids' voices, if we raised the pitch of our commands and spoke quickly it eventually caught on. But the frustration level was at a pitch by then. There was no way to 'skip' a word or phrase.

This gets even worse during actual gameplay. I do admit the game is addictive so I would literally sit there for 20 minutes trying to investigate a given item on a table. "Check book" I'd say. "Leave room?" she'd say and start leaving. There's a 3 second delay where you can't say anything, and then you say "CHECK TABLE!" to get her back to the table area. Then you try again. "Check books" - and now she's heading to the bathroom.

Half of the problem is her poor ability to understand what you're saying, even if you're being extremely clear and distinct. The other half of the problem is that you don't KNOW what the things on the screen are. Case in point. At one point you're in a living area and can see various items, including a blue, striped box. You can try "check box" or "check blue box" or "check striped box" or anything else - and either she'll say "Huh?" or she'll misinterpret your phrase and go wandering off elsewhere in the room. It turns out this thing you're looking at is a RATIONS and unless you say that, she won't actually look at it.

This problem happens EVERYWHERE. On one chair is a curved object. It's a "helmet" but unless you make that leap of logic, you're doomed. In another room, a white square lays next to a bed. You can try "document" or "paper" or "report" or any other combination of words to no avail. You can try "look under bed" or "look by bed" or "white rectangle" or "white square", and either she'll look at you in glazed non-understanding or mis-interpret your command to go elsewhere. Eventually you figure out this thing is a "laptop" and she does actually try to look at it - but she can't!!

I keep playing because I want to find out if things get better. But they never do. There are "category games" where you take turns naming things - astrology signs, islands in the caribbean, cities that have football teams. But no matter how clearly you say your chosen category choices - "Capricorn!" "Aries!" "Virgo!" she says "sorry you lose! Ha ha, I win!" It is just amazingly frustrating.

Maybe someday a game will be developed that DOES understand what you are saying - and that has good enough graphics that you can see what you're trying to do in the first place. But when you combine poor graphics, no ability to zoom ON AN ITEM (the zoom just zooms to a random spot in the center of the screen), combat issues where half the time you can't see what you are fighting, and a voice recognition system that wastes 20 minutes on an unimportant object in a room, the game tests even the most patient of adventure-game lovers' nerves.

A good game to play to see the direction that adventure game is heading in. But this is NOT quick to play. Allocate many, many days to get through this one.

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