Name: Arcade Lines
Format: PC
Developer: Adrian Grigore
Publisher: via the Internet from Lobster Soft
Year: 2002

Arcade Lines is a simple yet incredibly addictive game created by Lobster Soft. As far as I can tell, the only person in Lobster Soft is Adrian Grigore, because he is the only person the game is credited to.

The game is shareware, but potential buyers can download a 10 use free trial to see if they like it. The 10 use free trial means 10 chances to boot up the program, while the program is booted you can play it as many times as you like. And believe me, it's hard to stop yourself doing just that.

The game is a puzzle game which revolves around coloured balls. You have a 9 by 9 board of squares, and each one can hold one ball only. You start with some balls in the play field, and by clicking on them with your mouse you can move them to any other free tile which they have access to. Having access to a tile is defined as being able to create a path between the destination and the start tile which is not blocked by any other balls. It is important to note that if there is a diagonal gap between two balls, a third ball cannot move through. You either have to find another way around, or simply give up and not move that ball. However, there is no limit on movement - if a path can be found, no matter how long and windy, then you can take it.

Since the balls are coloured (the number of colours is variable depending on difficulty), the object of the game is to get them into lines organised by colour. Get 5 of one colour in a row and they disappear. It is possible (theoretically) to get up to 9 in a row, but this is very unlikely to happen. Obviously, the game awards more points for trickier to arrange lines (such as diagonals) and multiplies points if you get two lines at once, or two or more lines on subsequent moves.

The twist in the game, and the thing that makes it both incredibly frustrating and also very good fun, is that after each move which does not cause some balls to dissolve, either 1, 2, or 3 extra balls appear at random on the playing field. You can see in a Tetris style bar on the side what will turn up next turn, but you don't know where they will arrive. And because of this, you usually spend half your time setting up elaborate combo moves which will bag you loads of points, only to have your efforts thwarted right at the last minute. This makes the game completely unpredictable, and to many people, completely hair-tearing. Although that won't stop you playing "just one more time" every time you die.

As well as the regular coloured balls, there are a whole lot of extra pieces which are randomly added to the fray:

  • Double coloured ball: This can be used in a line of either colour, or as a "key piece" to simultaneously get rid of one line for each colour.
  • Multi coloured ball: As above, but not limited to two colours. This has the same function, but for any coloured line(s).
  • Paint bucket: Again, this can be used in line(s) of any colour(s). When it is dissolved, all adjacent balls are covered with a random colour of paint. If you use it in a tightly packed area, you can score incredible amounts of points in one go.
  • Fan: This piece can be dissolved like the paint bucket, but is very hard to get to, because any balls which are on any of the four axes from it and that have an empty space behind them will be blown backwards into that. This means that getting a fan in a line is usually very difficult, because the fan by itself can not be moved.
  • Dynamite: When used in a line, this explodes all other pieces on the board which are the same colour as those in the line.
  • 3X multiplier: Simply triples the points value of whatever line it is in.
  • 6x, 9x multiplier: same as above, except for obvious difference.

The game quickly becomes very, very hectic, even when only played on regular mode. I dread to think how difficult the "Pro" version which features more colours is. There are heaps of modes, ranging from the more difficult aforementioned down to easy, and there is even a custom mode which allows players to select the amount of colours. No doubt more modes are available in the full version of the game.

Considering that this is just a game made by a single guy, it is very slick. The graphics, while not exactly blowing you away, are pleasing (with a nice little shine effect on the balls) and the soundtrack is nice, if a little boring after a while. Overall, I'd say Adrian Grigore has done a great job creating an immensely addictive game (beating your previous high score is incredibly satisfying) and I look forward to any future games like this from Lobster Soft.

If you have a credit card and you like puzzle games, then I'd advise you to pick this up. If you don't have a credit card to buy it online, well, playing the free trial will make you want a credit card.


Playing the free trial when it was included on PC Gamer's cover disks.

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