‘On the Line’ review: off the rails (iOS)

by Eric Frederiksen

February 24 2014

Despite the Unreal Development Kit logo that appears during boot up, which normally heralds a technically impressive game, On The Line has just one, very simple mechanic: stay on the line. (Rating: 2 out of 5 stars)

There is no on-screen avatar in this game, though. Instead, your finger (or stylus) acts as the cursor. You start in a white circle, and as things get moving, you'll travel down a constantly twisting and turning line. All you have to do is keep your finger within the white space. The space seems rather generous at first, but it doesn’t stay that way for long.

Eschewing any kind of cursor or avatar is an interesting decision. With my giant man-hands taking up enough space on the screen, why add a character to track? This is a purely mechanical game.

Unfortunately there are a number of issues holding the game back from its full potential, the main one being a rather glaring bug. On the Line played well on release, but a patch shortly after has dragged it off the line and into the mud. The game moves so slowly that the only challenge is in patience, not mechanics. What was once a smooth game now stutters as it moves along. Something is clearly wrong, and that's unfortunate. Not only that, but the bug has been around for more than half the game's life—just under three weeks as I write this.

But that can be fixed (although it hasn't been yet). What’s worse are the other problems that can't be solved so easily.

While the game works fine on iPad, it feels like it was designed for an iPhone. Whichever you play it on, it'll take two hands, but on iPad it feels a bit like walking down a highway instead of an alley. There's just too much room on the screen.

I had what I can only describe as a physical issue while playing it, too. Holding your finger on the screen doesn't feel bad at first, but once that layer of oil between the screen and your fingertip wears off, moving back and forth gets almost painful. This is an issue that pops up in a lot of touch screen games, but it’s particularly glaring here because you spend literally every second of gameplay with your finger pressed against the glass. If gameplay didn't pause instantly when you removed your finger, it might be unplayable.

There also just isn't much here. The only thing to unlock is a set of additional background colors. Being that this is a two-color game, switching from orange to green is a nice change of pace, but hardly something that should need to be reserved as an unlockable. Additional art might have been more appealing. I'd put in the time to unlock lines that were inspired by different art movements or eras in pop culture. I'm only spitballing, but you get the idea—the colors aren't worth the time it takes to unlock them.

The tracks themselves feel like they've shown everything they have to offer after just a few rounds, too. The different obstacles are interesting at first, but there isn't a ton of variety.

The core idea of On the Line seems to be a good one, but a rough combination of a game-breaking technical problem and a lack of variety and replay value suck out any staying power the game might have.

  • On the Line
  • Developer: Kevin Choteau
  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $0.99
  • In-App Purchases? No

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