Have a Snake-shaped hole in your app collection? Longing for light cycles? Check out Hard Lines [$0.99], by Spilt Milk Studios. It's the perfect mix of point-gobbling and line-racing arcade action in one little package.

The basic gameplay is simple and familiar. You take control of Lionel, a line that can take only 90 degree turns. You've got a choice of controls, with Tappy's on screen buttons, Swipey's swipes to turn, and Turny, which divides the screen into two tapping zones (yes, the game presents its controls with those rather tongue-in-cheek names). If you crash your line into itself, another line or a wall, it's toast. Your goal, as in Snake, is to survive and earn as many points as you can in the process.

Don't write this off as just another knockoff. Hard Lines takes the formula further with six great game modes. Yes, you can play Snake mode, where your line grows ever longer as you gobble up glowy things. Or you can play Survival mode, which is a light cycle battle that pits you against a couple opponent lines. Deadline gives you three minutes to pull in the highest score possible, while Gauntlet sends an endless supply of enemy lines at you. There's also Pinata, where the lines you kill explode into piles of point-bearing glowy things, and Time Attack, which requires you to keep earning points to keep going.

What you get out of all that variety is a high-score race that doesn't get dull. Hit a plateau in one mode and you can move to the next. Unfortunately the leaderboards are currently only OpenFeint, not Game Center, but Spilt Milk Studios plans to address that in an upcoming update. They'll also be adding Retina support and tweaking the difficulty to get players right into the action. You can keep tabs on their plans in our forums.

What Hard Lines is missing in those features, it makes up for with charm and humor. The lines are chatty little things, always ready with quips to entertain you or to lament their deaths. On a long enough timeline these might get old, but so far the developer has been adding more quips to keep them fresh. The graphics and sound have a retro-stylish appeal that brings to mind the games Hard Lines owes its existence to. Oh, and make sure not to miss the vocal theme in the tutorial - it's really something to hear.

I expect that the lack of Game Center support will be a deal-breaker for many of our readers. If you can let that go, there's a great arcade gaming waiting for you in Hard Lines. I'll be waiting for you on the leaderboards if you decide to jump in.

[ UPDATE: Hard Lines has, by way of an update, gained Game Center support since the writing of this review. ]

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/Kush3 Marc Kusnierz

    This game is amazing and for those uninterested due to lack of Game Center support, I've been told that GC support is in the works and should be coming relatively soon.

    • Anonymous

      Something in the review really spoke to me, and I feel somehow compelled to purchase.
      ;)

  • WauloK

    I love it! This is my current favourite game! :)

  • Mrsmartiepants

    I hope they officially make it Universal too. I just bought it now hoping it scales well. If it doesn't they better not abandon it or go with a separate HD. 

    • Anonymous

      In the forums they say they have plans to make it Universal.

  • Chris K.

    For some reason Doodle Bug (freemium) has caught my Snake fancy...Tilt controls, terrible graphics and sound, and just the right variant rules to make it a regular for me.

    But I buy this now. This looks more like a Tron light cycle need filler than a Snake filler, but whatevs.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh. Did they really just say "iTouch" in their trailer?

  • Locanis

    Does not work on Verizon iPhone. Any attempt to download pops up the message of requiring 4.3. Guess what, Verizon only has 4.2.8. Would love to give these guys my money and give it a go, but who sets a firmware requirement that locks out the latest hardware of iphones?!

  • http://twitter.com/SpiltMilkStudio Andrew John Smith

    iOS 3.1.3 update is waiting in review at Apple, and universal is indeed the plan :D

  • KefkaDMM

    Wow, updated already! Downloaded and enjoying it currently, thanks for the quick update!

  • Locanis

    Correction, thought I would be enjoying it currently but I just loaded it to test (at work) and minimized it at the logo. When I load it up to play, it crashes right when it goes to transition from the logo when the music just starts up. Every load crashes. Tried reinstalling, rebooting, and have plenty of ram freed up. Definitely a compatability issue.

    Hope maybe another speedy update could remedy this in the future please. I know it takes a few weeks, but having purchased it, I am rather eager to play. I love games like lightcycle tron, etc. Sorry to report it not working?

    • http://profiles.google.com/theuntitled13 Jake Haas

      Yeppp, same thing here. Sucks.

  • http://twitter.com/SpiltMilkStudio Andrew John Smith

    That's been fixed now :D Sorry for the incovenience :(

Hard Lines Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4