Aforementioned atrocities aside, the puzzle-focused gameplay in the story mode is quite solid. You're given a series of pre-made tracks with large chunks missing. The goal is to creatively fill in the blank areas with your own line design elements in order to safely navigate the course, collect a number of medals along the way and land in the finish zone in one piece. The trial and error nature of the gameplay can be frustrating at times, but it's also very rewarding to overcome a particularly tricky course. The cut scenes you're treated to for completing different tiers of tracks are more of an insidious punishment than a reward for your efforts.
There's an option to create your own puzzle tracks for others to play, but the freestyle mode is where fans of the original will thrive. Freestyle does away with all of the lame trappings and gives you a blank canvas to doodle and concoct your own courses. The stylus-driven design interface is very versatile, and the expanded toolset adds trapdoor lines, breakable lines, trampoline lines and other elements to improve your courses. Unfortunately, the game imposes a limit on the amount of lines you can draw within any given area of the map. Doodling too much in any one spot causes ugly caution signs to sprout up to warn you when you're about to run out of line. These irksome admonitions don't appear when the tracks are being played, but they're nonetheless unpleasant limitations.
The ability to upload freestyle content you've created using Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection gives you the chance to flex your creative muscle for others to enjoy. In the same manner, downloading and playing other people's creations is a lot of fun. There's not a ton of downloadable content online yet, but a few crafty players have put together some interesting courses, proving it's possible to whip up some intriguing and complex tracks even with the DS's limitations.
At its core, Line Rider 2: Unbound has many of the same addictive qualities as the freeware game that inspired it. It's too bad you have to suffer digging through several layers of garbage to get to the good stuff. The powerful draw of the original Line Rider speaks for itself. By dropping the unnecessarily garish frills of the first retail release and going with a more streamlined presentation with extra room for creating bigger tracks, inXile entertainment could have had a real sleeper hit on its hands. It may not have been as commercially viable, but it would still have soul - and that's what players want.
Bottom line: Sometimes indie games are best left independent.
Recommendation: Skip it. There is some worthy gameplay buried in Line Rider 2: Unbound, if puzzles are your thing. However, the original freeware version is still the place to go to let your creativity flow.
This review is based on the DS version of the game.
Nathan Meunier once smashed his face on the ice trying to sled-surf down a frozen hill. It hurt. A lot.