Review: Line Rider Mobile

Line Rider header 

Creative Pocket PC users, this one is for you! Have you ever played a game where you thought “I wish this game included a level editor!”? Well, today I’ll be discussing a game/toy that IS a level editor. Line Rider Mobile (I will call it Line Rider in this review, without the “Mobile” part. Also, if I speak about the PC version, I mean both the web version of the version that can be downloaded for offline playing)  is a toy that was originally created by a student from Slovenia just a bit more than a year ago in September 2006, and today we can not only play this game on the desktop PC, but on the Pocket PC as well!

It’s not always easy to summarize the intention of a piece of software in a few words, and it’s often very easy to find information in Wikipedia, so let me take the easy approach and quote the Wiki:

“The basic concept is to draw one or more lines with the mouse on which a small man (referred to as “dude” or “Bosh” by the creator) on a sled can ride after the player presses the “Play” button. The game includes simulated physics, which means the track must be sufficiently smooth to prevent the character from falling off the sled. The author has said that he prefers the description “toy” to “game”, as there is no goal to accomplish, nor does it have an end. In spite of its simplicity, many complicated tracks have been created, which include loops and other stunts. Some tracks are even set to music and include hand-drawn scenery such as mountain slopes and trees. Tracks are typically shared among users by uploading a video to web sites, such as Youtube or Google Video.”

Read on for the review, or, if you are already familiar with Line Rider on the desktop PC and are now interested in how the PPC version compares to the original, please skip to the section right before the conclusion! Of course this review also has several screenshots, but it also has two regular Line Rider preview movies made by others one Line Rider Mobile preview movie by myself.


Impression 

If you’re interested and made it past the break, first sit back, relax, and enjoy these two video’s. The first shows a simple nose manual which should be achievable after getting to know the basics; the second one… You just have to see it… It includes a lot of artwork which doesn’t affect the track, we’ll get to that later. This track must have taken days and weeks to create. The important thing to know is that these video’s are made with the PC version but could also be recreated on the Pocket PC! (Well the smooth curves could become a problem, but the concept is the same)

Trial limitations

As quoted above, Line Rider is about drawing a track for Bosh to ride with his sled. Let me tell you at this point already that this is not an easy task to get started with, since the controls are pretty hard to get used to in the demo which only lets you play for a couple of minutes each time you start the game. You can start the game again and have some new play time, but since the Save option is disabled in the trial, you can’t really get creative. You can do your best to get used to the controls but if you really want to be productive you just need the full version. That’s why I recommend playing the free online version of Line Rider here first, and when you get the feeling, all you need the trial for before purchasing is to see that the Pocket PC version not only reflects the PC game, it has even more features! One final note regarding trial limitations is that also not all pre-made tracks are available in the demo, but you can still open some of them to see what can be achieved with the full version.

Line Rider menuMenu screens

When you start the game, you are first asked if you want to play with sounds. I usually press No. There are sounds effects available, or you can pick one of the three music tracks to play while Bosh is riding the track you built for him. We’ll see more regarding sound later.
On the main menu, the two most important things are “Create Track” where you can just let your creativity do everything you can think of, and even more. No restrictions, except for physics! The Puzzles are what does make the PPC version of Line Rider a game: you are displayed some pre-built elements along with destructible lines, and your goal is to build a track that touches all these destructible lines and then make your way to the finish line. The puzzles are a great way to get to know Line Rider and come up with ideas for your own tracks.

Another way to get familiar with tracks, is by viewing tracks made by others. If you go to Shared Tracks, you can post your own track, or download one of the tracks previously made available by others. There is a rating system that helps you find the best tracks, but of course if your friend sent in a track that isn’t very popular (yet) you can just search for it. (The video I posted at the end of this review is called “nosey & g well” so you can search for it if you like).

Line Rider ShareLine Rider share list

Line Rider instructionsThen there is the Instructions section where you can find out information about the rules of Line Rider, what the buttons on the toolbars in the Track Editor and Puzzles mode do, what line tools you have, what the different modes are, etc. It’s highly recommended to read these pages.
Since I already pointed out the difference between Create Track and Puzzles, and since it’s better to discuss the toolbars in another section, I won’t elaborate on the instructions. One last note though, the “View on PC” at the bottom doesn’t tell you how to send your tracks to the PC, it just tells that Line Rider was developed for the PC and that you can go to www.linerider.com. I’m not familiar with any way to exchange PPC and Windows PC Line Rider tracks, since they use different file formats.

Line Rider OptionsNext in line is the Options section. First of all you can here change the sound setting you picked when you started the game (I don’t really understand why they let you set the sound at startup in the first place, I prefer games adjusting to current sound level of my device), and here you even have control over the volume. Then you can also disable the messages that are displayed when you start Create Track or Puzzles, so I recommend leaving them On the first day you play Line Rider. Next, you can enable and disable the grid (to help you make more precise geometric shapes) and background. You can also change your name, which will be displayed if you upload your custom made track. Finally you can see the About screen, credits, and change the language of the menu’s and descriptions.

One last note before we get into the Create Track and Puzzles section, is about the soft keys. The “Select” and “Back” items you see in the Options screenshot, can’t be controlled by the softkey hardware buttons, I had to use my Messages and Voice recorder buttons for it. A bit weird, but since Line Rider is best played with a stylus, I don’t use buttons inside it’s menu structures either.

Create Track

Create Track is the mobile version of the toy that is available for the PC on the internet. Create the track you want Bosh to ride with his sled, you are only limited by gravity and your imagination. The screen consists of a white “working field”, with an optional grid to make your geometrical ojects more precise. When you’re not currently selecting anything on the toolbar, you can see how many lines you are using at the bottom. In the bottom right corner you can access the Menu which we’ll get to later. First let’s discuss the top bar!

Line Rider Create TrackLine Rider tools

On the top there are seven buttons, and the 2nd and 3rd have a submenu.
The first icon is an Undo/Redo button. You can only go one step back/forward so this is not really useful for going back several steps (you need to delete parts of your track for that), but if you accidentaly deleted a part you wanted to keep, this is the way to restore it.
The second button lets you pick the drawing style. You can draw a straight line, use a pen (free hand tool), or use the tool at the bottom to connect your straight lines in order to make your track more smoothly. Next is the Line tool picker (see below), where you can pick what kind of line you want to add. Blue (1) creates a normal track, red creates an acceleration track (which can go from left to right (2), or from right to left(3)). 4, 5 and 6 are for slowing down, creating a finish line, and creating lines that Bosh can break through.
Finally, the green ones (7,8 and 9) are for scenery. These don’t interact with Bosh, but can be used to make your track look better.
The next tools is the Eraser, which (surprise!) let’s you erase parts of your track. Often parts of your track need to be redrawn to get Bosh to ride his sled correctly, and it also happens quite frequently that you can remove a part of your track because Bosh flies over it (if you create a ramp, sometimes you will find that you started the landing spot before the place where Bosh actually lands, and it might look better to remove that unused part).
Then there is the Zoom tool, which you can use to get closer to your track or look at it from a farther distance. Just select the Zoom tool and drag your stylus up/down on the screen! What’s really nice is that if you zoomed in and press Play, you will also see the animation of Bosh riding your track from closer to the track.
The last two buttons allow you to move over the screen to other parts of your track and to start testing your track.

In the example screenshots I created a loop. If you start your first line, the S sign will automatically be placed above it so Bosh will fall on the track at that position. In this example I started with some acceleration lines (the red thingies at the bottom indicate the direction, from left to right). Then there is a little open space where Bosh can fly through when he has finished the loop, followed by the loop itself. Then there is a bit of open space again, this is where Bosh flies through when he enters the ramp.
It’s very important to give Bosh speed before entering the loop since otherwise he will fall, but because of the speed it’s also important to make the loop big enough, otherwise Bosh will crash.

If you look very closely you will see that all lines consist of a colored and a black part. The black part is where Bosh actually touches the track, so in this example Bosh will be at the inside of the circle (loop). But if Bosh approaches the track from the outside, the colored part will let Bosh through, so he can get to the inside. The difference is determined by how you drag your stylus over the screen: from left to right makes the black line at the bottom (so then it will be a floor/ceiling for Bosh), and from right to left puts the line at the top s0 Bosh can fly through it. It’s okay if you don’t understand, this is one of the things you will need to test in the program before truely finding out it’s benefits. (Or click here to see the explanation in the PC version)

As I said, the last icon is a Play button, which will make all track parts black (including acceleration and scenery lines, so the “technical properties” of your track are invisible while riding). Then Bosh falls from the starting point S (which can be dragged to another position, if needed), and starts his journey on his sled. You can pause and stop the animation if you want. While the game is paused, you can work on your track. This can be very useful if you sent Bosh off a ramp and want to “catch” him on a new part of the track. Just test the track, and while Bosh is in the air press Pause, and start creating your track at the current position of Bosh. Or, alternatively, you can press the Flag icon, and the next time you press Play Bosh will just start at this position. If you have a longer track, this is useful for skipping parts of the track that you know to be correct.
Line Rider line stylesLine Rider track 2

If you press the Menu button in the bottom right, you will see a new toolbar, on the right side on the screen. The first two items are for saving and loading tracks. There are enough save slots available, but be sure to first check out (the second disk button) the included savegames before overwriting them! They are pretty cool and very useful for finding out about some techniques!

Line Rider track menuLine Rider save

Then there is a button which allows you to change the sound effects during the testing of your track (after pressing the Play button): you can choose to hear sound effects or one of three music themes. (In the PC version of Line Rider, Line Rider fans often record their tracks, add music to them, and upload them to YouTube to impress other Line Rider fans). Finally there is a button to clear the entire screen (start over), and to exit Line Rider (it takes you back to the main menu).

Puzzles

The puzzles follow the same principle when it comes to constructing your track, but now you have some goals and limitations.
The first goal is to collect all destructible (orange) lines, which means that you have to make Bosh touch all of these lines. The other goal is that you have to make Bosh stop on the purple Finish line.
The restrictions are made by the orange lines I just mentioned: you need to touch them, so your track must at least come across those lines.

Line Rider puzzle listLine Rider puzzle track

In this example, “Slalom”, you need to go from the S sign to the purple line at the bottom, desctructing all flags on your way. These flags consist of three orange destructible lines (one vertical and two diagonal lines). The cool thing is that you can do this any way you want: it’s most logic to go from side to side, but if you want to do some tricks along the way, you can! My solution can be seen below. I let Bosh first slide down to the right on the blue line, and then he will fall on the red line, which first slows Bosh down and then accellerates him to the left. Then there is a brown part slowing Bosh down to prevent him from flying too far, after which there is a small jump to get Bosh positioned correctly in order to land on the blue track right below it. And so it continues all the way down – if you let Bosh stop on the Finish line then you will have solved the track!

Line Rider puzzle solvedLine Rider moving puzzle

Another quick example of how you have total freedom on how to solve a track. Below you see a flower, where you have to “collect” all the leaves before going to the finish. You can do this by going from side to side, each time dropping down a bit. However, it takes a long time to set up a track like this, so it is much more efficient to create a (part of a) loop, as can be seen in the bottom half of the second screenshot!

Line Rider FlowerLine Rider Flower1

Already familiar with Line Rider on the web or desktop?

While for some people this will be the first time they hear about Line Rider, some will be familiar with Line Rider for several months already and now come here to read about the mobile version and find out how it compares to the desktop/web version.

Please view this video that shows that G wells, nose manuals, ramps and scenery are all available and achievable on the Mobile version. Please disregard the quality of this video, I had to use My Mobiler (running on PPC and PC) and CamStudio (PC) while playing Line Rider so this significantly slowed things down. On the device the framerate is excellent so the ‘movie’ is smooth when viewing it directly on the Pocket PC. This video is just to show that it is possible to achieve these tricks. Also, the resolution of the video doesn’t match the resolution on my device of course.
(In short, the video is really crappy!)

The Mobile version has one downside and various benefits compared to the desktop/pc version. The downside is that you can’t work with a mouse, so you lose a little precision. (Of course this is still much more natural than playing on a non-touch-screen device!). The grid, which is new in the Mobile version, tries to help you with this, but I don’t think an application like Line Rider can change a lot about how the device reacts to screen taps.
On the more positive side, the Mobile version has a Pause button during gameplay so you can pause Bosh to edit the track (I know that this can also be done in the original version, but on LR Mobile there’s a button for it :)). Also, some new line colors are available, and (very nice!) a Back button that lets you undo your last move. This is a great addition that helps you restore a removed a line that shouldn’t have been removed. And, of course, the puzzles! This is a great concept which doubles the fun of Line Rider, in my opinion.

Conclusion

Line Rider is originally not a game (the puzzles were just added to the original concept), but the Puzzles add a great new dimension to Line Rider, so I really hope more will be made available – they’re great! You will need to get familiar with the ‘gameplay’ though, and that’s something that’s pretty hard with the trial, so I recommend to visit the website for the PC version of Line Rider here as well. The built-in tracks and online track sharing, provide you with plenty ways to discover new ideas and are great extra’s in Line Rider Mobile. The soft-key behaviour didn’t match with my device, but that’s not a big problem since you’ll use your stylus anyway.

If you get hooked to Line Rider on your desktop, you will really enjoy continuing to play on your Pocket PC where you have the same features (and even more, because there are more track types (colors), you have a grid, and you have a Back button). It works the other way around as well: I found out about Line Rider Mobile, and now frequently play Line Rider on my laptop.
Expert Line Rider players (from the PC version) might see some issues in the fact that it’s hard to draw lines very precise (which can already be quite hard on the PC version, but with a mouse it’s just a bit easier to see where your line will start and end, than it is with a stylus), but even for them Line Rider Mobile has some nice additions, which could even inspire the creators of the PC version. The puzzles and “back” button are really great additions to a very cool concept, so hopefully they will also be added to the online/desktop version.

Line Rider Mobile first gets you addicted while you try to solve the puzzles and make you learn how to create your tracks with various tricks, and will then probably remain on your device as a great way to spend your time in a creative, entertaining way. For the past couple of days I’ve been playing Line Rider online during day time, and after powering off my laptop I often immediately looked for my PPC to continue playing Line Rider Mobile!

Name: Line Rider Mobile
Version: 1.05
By: In-Fusio
Platforms/OS: PocketPC WM 2002 – WM 6 (also on Smartphones: WM 2003 – WM 6, and various other platforms)
Resolutions: all screen sizes including square screen Treo’s.
Price: $ 14.95
Download a trial or purchase from your favourite online software store, such as (direct links to the product page) Clickgamer, Mobihand ($ 12.95 until Oct 31, 2007), PocketGear, or Handango!

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