You have a message on your iOS or Android phone. A stranger is reaching out through the aether to reach you - you’re his only point of contact and he is in deep, deep trouble. So begins … well, frankly, all the Lifeline games start out this way, but in Whiteout, the person in peril is Adams, who finds himself in the middle of a snowy wasteland with no idea how he got there or who he is. He needs your help, and he needs it fast.
Of course, there’s not a whole lot you can do with nothing but a phone between the two of you, but Adams does ask your advice when it comes to deciding what approach he should take to survival. Whiteout plays out much like a Choose Your Own Adventure tale, with various branching narratives culminating in varying degrees (Ha! Degrees, get it? ‘Cause it’s cold… anyway...) of success or failure. Make the right choices and you’ll discover the secret behind of Adams’ amnesia, but make the wrong ones and he’ll end up dead at the bottom of an icy crevasse. There’s more than just snowy survival at stake, though, as Adams discovers murder victims, a doomsayer who's pulled out all his own teeth, and questionable scientific experiments. And why is just about everyone he runs into also named Adams?
The really fun thing about the entire Lifeline series is that it plays out in real time; Adams will message you that he’s going to hike the six miles to the relay station, and it’ll be hours before you hear from him again. When he beds down for the night, you won’t get another message until morning. Being out of touch adds a dimension of realness to your interactions with him as you tensely wait to discover the results of your advice.
The mystery of Whiteout is more than good enough to pique your interest to the point that you’ll want to chase down every last ending, but thankfully the game is wise enough to know that it should give you some shortcuts. Once you complete the story, you can rewind it all the way back to the beginning, or just to a particular decision, and you can turn off the delay to eliminate those long silences when Adams is busy. (Definitely don’t do that the first time you play it, though. It kills a lot of the immersion.)
Whiteout takes smart advantage of the fact that you check your phone constantly throughout the day anyway, and uses that to fuel its adventure. Pulling out your phone to check the time or your email and discovering that “Adams is waiting for you” to continue the story is really rather thrilling, especially if you’re at a particularly dangerous part of the story. (There are a lot of those.) The choices you’re asked to make are sensible, but the “right” choice, when there is one, is never blatantly obvious. Well, except for feeding the dog. Of course you feed the dog, what are you, a monster? Jeez.