Released one million years ago in 2006, Line Rider was impossible to ignore during the late ’00s. For high schoolers desperate for something better to do than listen to a middle-aged man tell them how to format paragraphs in Word, Line Rider was an escape.
If you’re unfamiliar, Line Rider is a something of a primordial physics game. Players draw lines and send a sled down them. It’s a simple toy that brings idle notebook doodles to life, fulfilling the fantasy of seeing stick figures actually do something—sick tricks in Line Rider’s case. No wonder it became a scourge among public school computer labs. It got so popular so quickly among young people that McDonalds even made a series of commercials within the game. (The Chicken Snack Wrap has since faded into a comparable obscurity.)
12 years later, Line Rider doesn’t come close to carrying the weight it once did, but some dedicated YouTubers are still finding new ways to make mesmerizing configurations of music and line art, all driven by a little physics-based sledder.
Here’s a few of my favorites released in the last year or two.
Revival – SethComposerGuy
This is a glitchy, confusing mess of a track with a hidden elegance. What first appears as a dense array of dots and slashes that no little sled friend could possibly navigate is actually a meticulously designed course. Things get going so fast that SethComposerGuy manages to pull off visuals that stop looking like a slope and more like a kaleidoscope. It’s short, but so intense and surprising.
This Will Destroy You – Rabid Squirrel & Ben Harvey
The amount of work that goes into making a three-minute Line Rider video is already impressive, but This Will Destroy You clocks in at 50 minutes. Set to post-rock group This Will Destroy You’s album S/T, this might be one of the greatest Line Rider films ever made. Find a big screen, good speakers, pop this on, and prepare to cry because a little person on a sled flew around a line drawing in accordance with the rhythm of that music your sloppy boyfriend (me) is always gushing about.
Dangerous Cargo – OTDE LR
OTDE LR expresses complex, staccato rhythms through a series of curves and chutes, all while managing to depict the expulsion of ‘dangerous cargo’ from a space station. It’s a short course that captures the theme and rhythm of Clipping’s The Breach perfectly.
Mind Mishief (sic) – Yobanjojoe ft. MrZNF
This course feels like a celebration of the art you see in glassware smoke shops that’s so earnestly hokey it nearly becomes endearing. Expect hummingbirds and astronauts and clouds and vines, vines everywhere. I think the hazy vibes from a slightly slowed down Moses Gunn Collective track finish the job. I love this course and so should—no, pass it to the left, Skeeter—so should you.
Steamed Hams – JaMaMaa1
For being one of the more recent courses, attachment to a meme that already came and went makes this one feel ancient. Remember Steamed Hams? This track is exactly what you’d expect, then.
Bug Thief – Andrew Hess
Hess manages to pull off some incredible geometric effects, all set to a tune by Iglooghost with wild, unpredictable rhythms. Released in August of this year, it’s only Hess’s sixth Line Rider course. I hope to see dozens more. This is easily one of my favorites.
Falling to the Beat – iPi
Simplicity reigns here. The sledder falls while tiny, short lines make them move to the beat. A few flourishes take over at the end, including some charming animated hands that nudge the little dude in the right direction. Bonus points for saxophone.
Neon Rider – HeliosLR
Neon Rider uses simple lines and colors to create an ensemble of courses that each express a different component of the music. Rather than retread the same complex line virtuoso, HeliosLR opts for a simpler, more experimental design to create a more universally palatable musical visual. All this to say: I like the colors, they’re neat.
The Wilderness – Linerider Community Collaboration
Ben Harvey and Rabid Squirrel of the feature-length film up top finished this abandoned project late last year. The course sees our rider through a lush outdoor scene in perfect sync with a powerful song from Explosions in the Sky. More like Explosions in My Tear Ducts.
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