Line Rider 2: Unbound Review
By Michael Richter |
This is the year of previously free Flash games being enhanced and packaged for retail. N+ is already available, and now Line Rider 2: Unbound is making the rounds to the DS, Wii, and PC. The original Line Rider was really an interactive toy instead of a game. Players could freely draw slopes for their sledder to ride down, but there wasn't any structure or conflict. For the retail sequel, the developers have tried to strike a balance between freeform creation and a story mode that throws obstacles at the player. For the most part they succeed, but there are some interface issues that keep Line Rider 2 from being an entire success.
The game has been given context in the form of a Wile E. Coyote vs. Road Runner-type conflict between our hero, Bosh, and his all black-wearing rival. This rival fellow is always setting up traps for the player, but of course they end up backfiring on him. There is also a lady sledder the two seem to be battling over. The story is presented with animated cut scenes in between levels. They don't detract from the gameplay, but the premise is too clichéd to really enhance it.
Story Mode sends the player down carefully constructed levels with a start point, a goal, and several targets that need to be hit along the way. In between you and the finish line are gaps in the path that need to be filled in. Players draw lines in these specific areas in order to get Bosh to safety. Once he has come to a complete stop, Bosh will do an amusing little dance. Solving these puzzles will unlock artwork you can use when creating your own levels. There are four types of lines at your disposal: regular old lines, red speed lines, yellow slow down lines, and purple trap doors. Usually, levels can be solved in a number of ways and it's really fun going through the trial and error of figuring each one out. Editing is mostly a breeze thanks to an undo button, an eraser, a snap-to option, and a grab tool that lets you move either an entire line or adjust curve points.
One frustrating aspect is that lines have two sides -- the black side you ride on and a blue side that can be passed through. This is to create layers of tracks and a sense of depth. The problem is that the player determines which side is on top by the direction they draw the line. Right to left will put the black side on top, and left to right will present the blue side. It's not very intuitive because you naturally draw in both directions depending on the situation. Too often you'll draw a line only to find Bosh dropping through it into the void. You can train yourself to remember, but it doesn't feel natural and the game doesn't explain the function.
Bizarrely, Line Rider 2 doesn't allow players to adjust their graphics settings. That means if your PC doesn't meet the game's minimum specs, like my work computer here, you'll have to shrink the window size in order to ride these lines. I had it running smoothly in full screen after installing on a more powerful computer, but, come on, this isn't Crysis. It's an enhanced version of a free Flash game. PC titles typically let the user adjust their settings since there is such a wide variety of hardware configurations. Playing in a smaller window is problematic because you can't draw past the edge of the screen, so longer lines need to be strung together and you can't get a real sense of the environment.
Throughout Line Rider 2 we encountered strange collision issues. Sometimes Bosh would pass right by a target but wouldn't connect; sometimes he would land on his head but wouldn't fall off his sled; sometimes he'll pass through a line he shouldn't. Line Rider is about physics so it is disappointing to see all this inconsistency with how Bosh interacts with the game world.
The levels are inventive and as you progress through Story Mode they get pretty epic. After all the time you spend on it, you may want to watch the run again and savor your victory. You can, but you can't save your replays, unfortunately. You can export videos of the levels you create in Freestyle mode, so I don't see why saved replays wouldn't be possible in Story mode.
In Story or Puzzle mode, you can only draw in the green areas.Outside of Story Mode are the Freestyle and Puzzle modes where you can really get creative. Freestyle works like classic Line Rider, allowing players to create zany runs to send Bosh down. Only now you can add more graphics to your scenes. Puzzle mode allows you to create structured obstacles like the ones you find in the story and share them with others via the game's official website. There are even more lines available in these modes, like trampolines that Bosh will bounce on and scenery lines that are just for decoration and won't affect the sled. The editor is robust, and downloading user-created levels will greatly increase the game's lifespan.
The music in Line Rider 2 is one of its highlights. For the most part it is catchy, lighthearted electronica that will get stuck in your head.