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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, and while none of this detracts from the gameplay 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 -- but there 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. There are three types of lines at your disposal: regular old lines, red speed lines, and yellow slow down lines. 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 your lines can be frustrating, though.
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.
Tweaking your drawings can also be a pain. You can't draw past the edge of the screen, but there are gaps that extend into the beyond. That means you have to connect multiple lines and if they're not perfect you have to deal with editing them. You also can't zoom out as far as I'd like. In a game with so much trial and error, trying things should really be easier.
The levels are inventive and as you progress through Story Mode they get pretty epic -- which is why it's a shame you can't save your replays. Heck, you can't even watch your replay once when you complete a level. After all the time you spend on it, you may want to watch the run again and savor your victory. Instead, the game ushers you into the next stage and your work is lost forever. Sad face.
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. However, you'll run into the same complications altering your lines here that you did in Story Mode.
The music in Line Rider 2 is one of the highlights. For the most part it is catchy, lighthearted electronica that will get stuck in your head. It was compiled by KROQ DJ Jason Bentley and is really quality stuff.
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Line Rider 2 Unbound