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Hard Lines

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Solid Snake

Product: Hard Lines | Developer: Spilt Milk Studios | Publisher: Spilt Milk Studios | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Hard Lines iPhone, thumbnail 1
Every now and then a game concept comes along that is so blindingly ingenious you have to wonder why no one else has ever attempted it previously.

Hard Lines is one such concept. It takes the pill-gobbling gameplay of the Nokia favourite Snake and combines it with the trippy light cycle sequence from Disney’s Tron, thereby creating one of the most addictive and downright enjoyable games we’ve played on iOS in quite some time.

Hard Lines comprises several different gameplay modes, but each one is built around the same basic gameplay. You control a line (called Lionel) whose life goals are to eat glowing objects and obliterate other lines.

Hitting the wall

Lionel turns at right angles and leaves a solid wall in his wake - just as the aforementioned light cycles in Tron did - and this is lethal to other lines (and our hero himself, should he accidental double-back onto his own wall).

The wall isn’t permanent, however. Just like in Nokia’s Snake, Lionel’s wall is a set length, although eating glowing blocks can increase its size.

Around these core rules the developer has created several different game modes. 

Stand in line

Survival is Hard Lines at its most pure - you simply have to keep Lionel alive for as long as possible, eating shiny bits to boost your score and slamming as many opponents into your wall as possible.

Dead Line gives you three minutes to score as many points as possible with infinite lives, while Time Attack allows you to extend the time limit by scoring points. Pinata mode is focused on destroying enemies and gobbling up the glowing bits they drop.

Gauntlet is possibly the most demanding and exhilarating mode, as it fills the screen with rival lines and calls for quick reactions and ruthless aggression to stay alive. Snake is the final choice, and as the title suggests it’s pretty much a direct copy of the game that graced millions of Nokia phones not so long ago.

Despite their varied gameplay, the ultimate focus of all of these modes is to attain a large high score, with the game dutifully keeping track of your previous best.

Scores on the doors

Hard Lines therefore becomes an exercise in score-chasing, and integration with Open Feint ensures that some friendly competition is available in the form of friends and other players, and extensive leaderboards help you spot where you are in the pecking order.

Visually, Hard Lines boasts an excellent faux-retro aesthetic that is accompanied by some similarly old-fashioned chip-tunes and effects. However, the most striking element of the presentation is the constant stream of chatter emitted by each line as it glides across the screen.

Whose line is it anyway?

Rather than being characterless pixels, each line has its own personality. As they all go about their business they will impart various nuggets of wisdom and even crack jokes - rather than being a distraction during play, these amusing quips augment the experience, making Hard Lines even more appealing and endearing.

The game has a couple of weaknesses. The first and most obvious is the lack of multiplayer. Given that even Snake - or some versions of it - supported Bluetooth multiplayer, way back in the first half of the noughties, the lack of multiplayer in this modern build is astonishing.

The second is that the modes are unevenly difficult. While Gauntlet is immediate and challenging, Snake and others take what feels like an age to get going, and as you get better at the game this slow phase gets longer.

Hard Lines is all about chasing scores, and unless you’re excited by the idea of constantly bettering your previous personal best you may tire of Hard Lines after a couple of days.

However, if you value short-burst mobile entertainment and long to play a game that showcases the gloriously addictive gameplay of Snake but has a unique twist that makes it seem fresh and new, then you really should stop reading this review and download Hard Lines as quick as is humanly possible.

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Hard Lines
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 15 June 2011
A gloriously inventive combination of Nokia's Snake and Tron's light cycles, Hard Lines includes a dazzling variety of modes and provides weeks of entertainment for short-burst gamers and dedicated score-chasers alike
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