Everyone and their aunt has played Snake, right? It came standard on most Nokia phones (it probably still does), a bare-bones monochromatic puzzler that involved stopping a greedy snake from bashing into its own tail.
It was boring as all hell, and the only thing it was good for was... Well, not much actually.
Hard Lines revisits this long-neglected concept, gives it a warm bath and a hot meal, and then chucks it into a time machine and flips the dial several hundred years into the future. Think of it as Snake Rogers in the 25th Century. It's been available on the App Store for a while, but this week the Android Marketplace gets its own version, and we think it's a winner.
How does it play?
It's a mish-mash of two puzzling staples; the first is the aforementioned Snake, where a single pixellated column navigates across a field, gobbling up items and trying to avoid colliding with either its trailing body or the bordering fence. So far, so conventional.
The second inspiration, however, is where it gets properly interesting. Other snake-like entities are also present on the playfield, and they can collide with you as well. They want the same items as you do, and they can be killed by laying down a trap with your trailing tail. That's right, you've guessed it, we're playing a variation of the light-cycle battles from Tron.
You rack up points and multiples thereof by surviving as long as you can, gobbling up as many items as you can, and despatching as many other snakes as you can. Controls are managed with a simple swipe of the screen in the direction you want to go, and what could have been a high-concept headache works surprisingly well.
Why do we like it?
Hard Lines has wit and style in abundance. First off, the window-dressing is a neon-drippin', disco-poppin' retro-futureworld, and it's a nice place to visit. Think Geometry Wars Evolved, and you're halfway there.
Also, the game is gifted with a surreal sense of humour. As the shafts of light travel across the screen, they'll randomly quote pop-culture sacred cows like The Matrix, The Big Lebowski, The Terminator and Batman. The team at developer Jakyl are clearly a group of films buffs, and they've got good taste.
There's a multitude of play-modes on offer, including stuff like Survival and Time Attack, and even the traditional version of Snake. But it's when Hard Lines looks forward, not back, that the game is at its most compelling.
Hard Lines costs £1.99 on Android Marketplace and is available now. [Android Marketplace]