The Lineup: Exploring the Player’s Decision Making Proccess
The Lineup is a 3D comic book style indie game for PC, Mac and Linux. The player-controlled character is a psychic detective who identifies the faces of suspected murderers by reading the minds of their victims. Using a third eye, the player must pay attention to a morphing set of faces ultimately revealing the identity of the criminal. The challenge is to pick the killer from a lineup based only on a quick vision of morphing faces. This proves to be quite the challenge as I made many mistakes playing the game.
If the player does not choose the correct killer, the suspect is released back onto the streets to claim more victims. If the player does choose the correct killer, justice is served and the killer is immediately executed by the electric chair. Guessing the wrong killer will only result in a loss scenario once a certain limit has been reached. In my case, on the normal difficulty, the game ended after only three wrong guesses. The harsh realities of this game play weigh heavy on the player’s decision-making process. If the correct killer is not chosen the first time, they will be released and able to kill more and more innocent people. This fact alone creates a sense of urgency to find the killer. Allowing the killer to roam the streets, by mistakenly choosing the wrong suspect, is an awful feeling. I found myself feeling a sense of empathy for the police detectives as they attempt to bring the correct criminals to justice.
The developer designed a win condition that can only be met by acting morally responsible. This is the most powerful aspect of the game as it forces even the most cynical players to help the police department. Using the player’s unique psychic abilities, the game creates a sense of responsibility seldom found in games. However, this sense of responsibility feels forced and almost unnatural. Restricting players the option to choose the evil path may alienate an entire audience of players.
The pixel art style and moral ambiguity are the strong points of The Lineup. The game play succeeds in questioning a player’s moral prowess, but fails in creating a fun experience. Reading minds and choosing criminals from a lineup is not exactly a fun activity or a full game for that matter. The lack of game mechanics makes this game feel incomplete. At best, The Lineup is a mediocre mini-game that should be part of a much larger game.