At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Andrew Rouse Nintendo DS Deep Silver InXile Entertainment 1-2 (WiFi Multi-cart)
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Click here to buy Line Rider: Freestyle.

Line Rider: Freestyle review

Line Rider: Freestyle (Released as Line Rider 2: Unbound in the US) is the DS version of the browser-based Flash/Siverlight game Line Rider. The basic mechanic is that you draw some sloped lines on the screen and then the rider (a little guy on a sledge) is dropped at the top of your line and you can watch him slide down it. Using only lines, you can construct intricate courses which send the rider into jumps and loops. Line Rider: Freestyle attempts to capture the simple joy of drawing lines and then watching as a little dude on a sledge whizzes over the jump and around the loop you've just made.

In the Story mode of Line Rider: Freestyle, you have to complete a series of puzzles interspersed with cutscenes which are just the wrong side of the line between cute and creepy. Parts of a track are drawn and you have to fill in additional lines so that the rider can get from his starting point to the finish while collecting all the targets. The designated sections where you can add additional lines are denoted by green squares and you can add normal lines, or lines which speed up or slow down the rider when they ride over it. You select which lines to draw by touching icons in the toolbox in the bottom left corner of the screen and can also select an eraser to remove a line you've already added.

Drawing lines is obviously the most important action in Line Rider: Freestyle and the player is given the choice of two drawing methods. The freehand method works just like the original Line Rider; simply draw the lines you want to create with the stylus. The curves method uses Bezier curves (commonly used by professional drawing tools for creating smooth, curved lines). First you set the start and end points of a section of the line, then you can use two control handles to precisely adjust the curvature of the line, resulting in a nice, smooth slope. Once you've made a line, the only way to get rid of it is to use the erase tool which works just like the erase tool in any paint program, removing parts of lines wherever you touch on the screen. When you're not in the middle of drawing a line, you can use the D-Pad to pan the screen around the drawing area and use the A and Y buttons to zoom in and out for greater accuracy.

Most of the puzzles rely on controlling the speed of your rider precisely by using the special lines which speed up and slow him down. Quite often, if your rider is too slow, you'll fall short at the next jump and if he's too fast, you'll go flying over it, missing the tokens completely. This leads to some tedious trial-and-error gameplay where you erase and redraw your lines until the speed boost (or speed dampener) is just the right length for the rider to land smoothly on the next piece of track.

The freestyle mode is most similar to the original Line Rider game. Starting with a completely blank drawing area you can use whatever lines you like to draw a track for the Rider to ride. In this mode you have many more tools available including decorative lines, bouncy lines, breakable lines and trigger lines which start tricks or a dramatic camera zoom. In addition to drawing the track, you can also draw in the foreground and background to add some more flair to your course. After all, why have a jump when you could have a jump through a ring of fire? (Albeit one only drawn with black lines). As with the browser game, it's possible to make extremely complex and detailed courses which cause the rider to perform death defying jumps and flips, or just to slide peacefully through the world you've drawn. Unlike in the puzzle mode, you can add a temporary bookmark when the rider is riding down the track which will allow you to restart the run from that point next time, allowing you to test later bits of your track without having to watch the rider negotiate all of the earlier sections.

The final mode is the puzzle creator. Here you can create puzzles similar to those found in the story mode using all of the creation tools available in freestyle, with a few extra tools for placing the puzzle objectives. The tracks made in the freestyle and puzzle modes can all be swapped with your friends using a local WiFi connection or can be uploaded to the Line Rider: Freestyle website using Nintendo Wifi Connection. (Unfortunately, I was unable to try out this feature since my DS and my router are not currently on speaking terms.)

The drawing tools disappointed me in several ways which is quite unfortunate since they're at the core of the gameplay. The screen on the DS is rather small so to be able to draw accurately you need to zoom in, but unfortunately the zoom controls are on the A and Y buttons, which are under your hand when you're drawing. There's no lefty mode either, so if you're left-handed, then you're stuck with the panning controls under your drawing hand and the toolbox on the wrong side of the screen. The curves mode is really good for drawing precise lines but once you finish adjusting the line it becomes static and you can't adjust the Bezier control points again. There is a tool for editing lines which divides up the line into short, straight sections and then allows you to move the corners. Unfortunately, I found that often it would suddenly jump the corner I was moving back to its original location without any explanation. While the edit tool is reasonable for correcting slight errors in freehand lines, it doesn't give you nearly as much power over curves as the Bezier controls which are available when you initially created the lines.

The DS screen, while good, isn't perfect and this is most obvious when trying to use it to draw precisely in Line Rider: Freestyle. It can be very difficult to get the line to go exactly where you want and occasionally it thought I had lifted my stylus when I hadn't, causing my new curve to be half drawn. This problem is compounded by the lack of any undo functionality meaning that you have to erase any errant lines (along with any correct lines of the same type that it overlaps) and draw them again.

Overall, the line riding mechanic at the heart of Line Rider: Freestyle is still very good and the Freestyle mode replicates the fun and creative possibility of the original Line Rider on the DS. However, the puzzle mode is tedious, the tools are lacking and even the excellent Freestyle mode doesn't add much to the original (and free) game.

Ratings

Overall If you've played Line Rider and want to have the same experience anywhere you can play a DS then Line Rider: Freestyle is very much for you. Otherwise, I'd stick with the browser game. 5/10

Click here to buy Line Rider: Freestyle from Amazon.co.uk.

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