I'm on the phone, on hold to a utilities company, banal nothing-music dribbling through the tinny speaker into my ear. On my lap is an iPad. With a single finger I'm tracing a path through one of On The Line's randomly generated mazes.
I'm stuck somewhere between eyes-rolled-back Zen-like trance and mild annoyance at the tune I'm being subjected to. Then I crash into the wall, a pixel's width of skin betraying my push to two metres. 'Goddammit,' I howl, as a bemused Scottish voice pops up on the other end of the phone.
On The Line is the sort of game you play with a scowl on your face. It latches on to the strands of your brain that control compulsion and twists its way around them. It makes you shout at call centre staff inadvertently.Line-oh
You start the game by placing a finger on the screen. From then until you lift your finger or crash into a wall, everything is in motion. A maze scrolls down the screen, slowly getting faster, and you need to keep your finger in the white line.
Each centimetre you travel is measured, and added to a tally when you eventually die. The first height you reach is Stonehenge. After that it's monuments and buildings all the way to some truly dizzying heights.
In a way, On The Line is the antithesis of twitch gaming. You need to be smooth and calculating, taking care not to cut corners. There's a demand for accuracy running through the game that wriggles into the way you play.
The clever controls mean your finger never obscures the action. It's your connection to the game and the star of the show at the same time.Line it up
On The Line has a limited life span, but the time you spend with it will be characterised by bouts of fierce, face-scrunching concentration.
Its simplicity almost goads you towards mastery, posing the simplest of finger-moving challenges, then ramping up the difficulty until defeat is imminent and unavoidable.
It might just be a trial of finger-eye coordination, but it's well enough put together that you'll want to challenge yourself with it for a good while before the gloss wears off.