The concept is simple: for those not in know Line Rider is a joyous little 2D, physics-enabled, flash game that involves drawing a line, clicking play and watching a little fella on a sled ride along it. He will keep on going as far as your lines allow; make jumps, drops, loop-de-loops, whatever - just try to keep him on the sled. Those creatively inclined can pencil in scenery to make themed levels and discover new ways to transport the line rider around. With enough patience and skill some truly incredible lines can be created, as is evident on You Tube and the dedicated website. This, however, is all true of the browser-based game so how has it been expanded into a retail product?
The original game is free to play and lives on the internet at linerider.com. A game paints a thousand words so if you haven't already, I suggest you give it a go. In Line Rider Freestyle core elements are near identical, it wasn't broke so they didn't fix it. Additions of back drops and increased detail of the sled-bound protagonist will largely go noticed; visuals still have an indie game feel.
How better to extend the concept than the addition of a series of challenges interspersed with some low-fi, animated cut-scenes under the menu option 'Story mode'? The format of the structured Line Rider levels? A set start point, a set finish line, an immovable track with sections missing and coins to collect in between. Sounds reasonable, but areas in which you can create track are limited only to measly green boxes generally situated where the gaps in the track are. Filling in the blanks feels like video game manual labour in comparison to the liberating, ad-hoc, aimless track creation of freestyle mode. For me, the essence of what is great about Line Rider just doesn't convert very well to the confines of set puzzle challenges.
Some challenges exercise the use of the new line types available. Speed lines and slow lines that accelerate your rider are still at your disposal but now, so are disappearing trap-doors and bouncy trampoline lines. Not a huge change but I'm sure someone out there will find a terrifyingly unlikely use for them and document it on You Tube.
You'll be glad to know a sandbox 'freestyle mode' is available to play; with extra track pieces and a graphical touch-up it is a slightly improved version of the internet game. Event triggers, exploding lines and purely decorative lines can all be used add a bit extra to your track. With no goals or interruptions this is probably where you will spend most of your time with Line Rider. The joy of the original concept is converted perfectly and it is nice to have it in full-screen mode.
Special mention must go to the line rider soundtrack; short looped eurotrash pop might raise a smile the first couple of times, but only under 8s and the hard of hearing will tolerate it much longer. This is typical of the acceptable but slightly lacklustre, low-budget presentation on the whole that seems to have drawn inspiration from the simple visuals used in the worms series and the interface of an unimaginative DS game.
You are a cheeky chappie Line Rider and I like you. The basic concept is so refreshingly simple but enjoyable that its hard to criticise this half-baked inflation to a retail product. This may not be a full price title but nor is it a fully-justifiable purchase if you already have a PC with access to the free flash game, and for that reason I can't be too generous. Come back, Line Rider, when you figure out a way of making a decent two player mode, then we'll talk business.