Hard Lines to bring TRON’s light cycles formula into the future this June

As a kid of the 80’s, playing with TRON‘s light cycles will always be cool to me. And no, I’m not talking about that awful TRON: Legacy game that hit the App Store last year. I’m not even talking about the knock-off attempts to bring the formula into the 21st century like LightBike2. I’m talking old school, classic, arcade TRON. It looks like I’m not the only one who longs for the light cycle days of yore, as developer Spilt Milk Studios is looking to channel that arcade classic into their second iOS release, Hard Lines.

Drawing clear inspiration from games like TRON and Snake, Hard Lines will have player controlling a single yellow line named Lionel as he attempts to collect glowy things (which he loves) and kill other lines (which he HATES).

Hard Lines

Using one of three control schemes (officially dubbed “Swipey,” “Tappy,” and “Turny”) players will guide Lionel around the screen by making ninety degree turns, all while trying to avoid crashing into a line (whether an enemy’s or Lionel’s own) as they try to survive as long as they can. On paper, it sounds an awful lot like the games it draws inspiration from. There are three things, however, that may help to set Hard Lines apart from the past: presentation, personality, and variety.

We’ve recently had a chance to go hands-on with a pre-release build, and were absolutely delighted by what we experienced. Rather than offering a single mode as most games of this nature do, Hard Lines offers up six. Each plays differently, though some more differently than others. Survival and Gauntlet, for example, offered up variations on the “play until you die” style of game, the While Deadline and Time Attack both offered twists on timer-based gameplay. In Pinata mode glowy things burst out of the corpses of dead lines, while Snake mode plays like… well, like Snake.

The variety of modes present really brought games like Geometry Wars: Touch to mind, and if the modes didn’t, the presentation would have. Everything here has that grid-based, neon-tinged, space vibe. For awhile there it seemed like every game was trying to cash in on Geometry Wars style, but I think it’s been long enough since that fad has passed that it can be used again without looking like a “me too!” approach to visual design. Besides – in a game that’s essentially Light Cycles 2011, it’s a great fit.

Hard Lines

Hard Lines

This biggest impression the game left us with, though? It’s funny. Surprisingly funny. During the tutorial, Lionel shares his visceral, almost cartoon-like hatred of other lines. “GRRR!! I HATE THEM I DO!!” During the gameplay, all of the lines share up silly bits of dialogue like “Feel my wrath!” and “I’ve wasted my youth.” And when you’re alone with Lionel in Snake mode, he’s more than eager to have a little one on one time with you. “Do you use Twitter? I twit. We should twit each other.” While we didn’t play for long, there’s no doubt that the dialogue here is the sort of simple touch that makes impossible to wipe a smile from your face.

If you’re a fan of classic arcade games and all things glowy, Hard Lines needs to be the next game on your radar. Spilt Milk Studios is hoping to have this one on the App Store sometime this June.