Usually there’s a reason certain games find huge success online, but wouldn’t really work as full-on video games. The games you play in your browser at work tend to distract you for a few minutes here and there, if only to prevent you from actually doing any work, but you probably wouldn’t pay to play them. Line Rider: Freestyle attempts to take the hugely popular Flash game and turn it into a full-price DS game, and the result is a fun diversion that works well on the handheld.
If you’ve never played the internet phenomenon that is Line Rider, the gameplay is very simple and essentially saw you drawing lines that a man on a sled slid down – as if tobogganing down a mountain. In Line Rider: Freestyle a little man rides a sled down a mountain made entirely of lines, and it’s your task to draw the peaks and troughs while trying to make sure he doesn’t fly off to his death. Rather than simply being a playground for you to create crazy mountains, players are presented with a series of challenges that need them to draw lines missing from the mountain and safely get the little man to the finish – without him flying off the edge.
At your disposal are a number of tools and line types. You’ve got the basic line, the fast line that increases the sled’s speed, the slow line that reduces speed, lines that disappear once you’ve passed over them, lines that bounce your sled into the air and more. You’re also able to modify each line at certain points, letting you create curves instead of rigid lines and sharp angles.
Due to the DS’ small screen it’s hard to get a complete view of the puzzle you’re working on, but the zoom function does its job well enough. If you make a mistake you can erase what you’ve done completely or just a certain line type, and you can completely move a line if you want. The interface takes a little getting used to and it’s not nearly as simple to use as it was on the PC, but it does the job.
To add some depth to proceedings the lines you draw can be passed through from one side, so it’s possible to create courses that overlap each other. The overall goal in each level is to pick up all the tokens that are scattered about (plus some optional ones for bonuses), and to do this once you’ve moved beyond the opening stages is incredibly tough. Players of the PC game will likely be able to jump in and know what they’re doing straight away, but complete newcomers will take some time to get to grips with the physics and what punishment your sled-riding man can take as he bounces along.
The 40 stages in the story mode should keep you drawing lines for some time, especially if you replay them to collect all the tokens, but beyond that you can create your own stages and then share them with the Line Rider online community. The creation tools are pretty good, so there’s every chance you’ll be able to play new levels for some time to come. The freestyle mode is a return to the classic ‘do what you want’ formula from the Flash game, and will probably be the biggest time-sink for many players.
Line Rider: Freestyle feels a little light as a retail release, even though it’s £20, but there’s a decent challenge here and plenty to do once you’ve worked through the main game mode. It’s unlikely to find the same massive audience that the free Flash game enjoys, but casual DS gamers looking for a puzzle fix now and then could play a lot worse.