Line Rider: Freestyle
Sledge enthusiast Bosh rides lines. Those bendable, stretchable, thick or thin, black or blue things are his love in life, and sledging his forté. Contrary to popular belief, little Bosh also rides down hills laden with snow, only in compressed FMVs, as a break from all his line-riding fun. He depends on you, the reluctant ‘God’ of lines, to draw the ground beneath him. He’ll go through hell and back until you get it right, crashing multiple times hoping you’ll have mastered the intricacies and physics behind a successful line ride. Unfortunately these intricacies are almost impossible to master, read: bastard hard. The visuals and lack of content for the price certainly don’t help matters. A carpenter never blames its tools, apparently. Evidently this carpenter’s never played Line Rider: Freestyle.
Born from the genius and wholly lovable free flash game, Line Rider, this DS iteration somewhat loses the appeal of the original browser classic. While its portability is a massive plus for the game, enabling devout Line Rider fans to continue their creativity on the train or suchlike, the actual creation process is not as slick, easy to use or enjoyable as its older brother. There are more tools to play with, such as new lines including those that trigger neat zoom effects, lines that are breakable, and lines that act like a trampoline – and these are all exclusive to the game. They’re neat in helping users get even more creative, but the fussy gameplay means they’d have been better utilized in the PC game.
Line Rider: Freestyle does have its own merits however, and there is some relevance to it on the DS. The characters are at least likeable, and while lacking memorable appearances at least seem lively in the well animated, but technically limited – cut-scenes. The story mode is a worthy inclusion, and arguably what is going to draw people in. The actual story is light on any real significance, and parallels with that roadrunner-esque narrative, with added love interest. It’s forgettable but notable, at least.
The story mode has you fill in sections of a level, in order to get Bosh from the start to the finish line, collecting a number of targets on the way so there’s no way to cheat. Coins can be collected too for prizes, and these are placed in hard to reach places, which on occasion seem hardly possible to collect. The challenge lies in this collection of targets, as the limitations of the boxes where your lines are to be drawn mean you need to think outside the box (pun intended), most times. It’s a good idea executed admirably, but the difficulty soon becomes unbearable, and the anal sensitivity and at times random collision detection means it becomes all too easy to blame the DS and the game’s creation process. There are forty levels of hair-pulling fun to be had, and this is certainly a reasonable amount, especially seeing as the harder it gets the longer the levels take to solve. A second rider is added later on to truly test your skills, but because of the difficulty and the precision needed in making your lines, you often feel you need a lucky lot of flukes than a consistent set of skills.
The interface for drawing lines isn’t terribly intuitive, but once you’ve had a few goes you’ll soon be in the know. You can devise lines either freehand (surprisingly difficult with the stylus as opposed to a mouse), or by stretching out lines and then altering their curves. The latter option is undoubtedly the most efficient in the long run, as it at least affords the most accurate and bump-free line. The stylus interaction with the screen sometimes requires hard presses, and the lines made are not as you planned – calibration issues mean there’ll be times where lines made were not as you wish. Editing a line once it has been created is also irritating, as all the points that can be altered often snap back to their original positions, even after persistent strokes from your stylus. It’s often a better idea to just erase the whole line and start again than re-editing them.
Along with the story mode is freestyle and puzzle modes. The former simply emulates the PC original, where you’re free to go wild with track designs. You’re given the full variety of line types, and a lot of space to fill, as well as the ability to place in foreground and background elements. Unfortunately, these are print stamps much like clip art, but more basic. There’s little you can do to truly make your track appealing to yourself and others. The puzzle mode lets you do all that of freestyle mode, but you can add boxes for other people to fill in, exactly like the story mode. You can share these puzzles online (once you’ve solved it of course – a neat addition), which is this game’s best idea. Hardcore line-rider enthusiasts will be able to trade and receive all kinds of courses online, and it’ll give much incentive for them to forget the flaws of the game and focus on creating a decent puzzle.
The visuals are lacking any kind of personality, and are incredibly bare. Countless flash games tower over its aesthetic quality, and only the FMVs help its case. Bosh is depicted small and only hinting of a physical stature, and while he bounces with the momentum, the standard snowy backgrounds do nothing not seen before. The audio is slightly better, but is still sub-standard – the euro-garbage vibes are likeable at first but soon grate. At least it’s different from the norm.
For a game where the sole mechanic is to draw lines, it’s ironic that not long after starting, you’ll feel like the ink is already starting to run dry. If you can get past the frustration of line creation, and the trial and error gameplay – or if you’re a seasoned line rider who wants to continue the creativity in your palm – then you probably won’t be too disappointed. The lack of content and polish for even a budget title leaves it hard to recommend, but the fact you can get a better experience for free, online, is even more disheartening. Line Rider: Freestyle is an idea that sounds great on paper, an idea that makes so much sense you feel it simply can’t fail. Unfortunately it’s an idea best left on paper, or in the browser window of your computer.