Earlier this week, Aksys Games released indie developer Gaijin’s fourth installment in the Bit.Trip series available on WiiWare. The aptly titled “RUNNER” finally puts players in the shoes of the series’s protagonist, CommanderVideo, in this side-scrolling rhythm/reflex platformer. Be prepared for a lesson in tension management as you instruct the Commander when to jump, slide, kick (and more) as he sprints through the game’s numerous levels.
The game starts out with simple enough instruction: “Jump: 1”. You are then eased into the first level where you get the opportunity to learn the first of CommanderVideo’s many moves. Each level after this introduces a new skill on top of the previous ones you have learned. You must use these skills in order to collect all the gold bullion you see as well as make it to the goal safely.
The first thing I noticed about Bit.Trip RUNNER was the speed. CommanderVideo goes through each level at a relentless, break-neck speed and doesn’t slow down or stop for anything. The rate at which he progresses is so fast, you hardly have a moment to breathe; each level must be navigated by instinct and reflexes, because if you stop long enough to think about what you’re doing then you will quickly find yourself back at the level’s start point. In the 10 levels I have completed so far, the pace has at least remained consistent. Once you are in the zone with the chiptune soundtrack, you will find it hard to put your controller down.
So far, the most likable feature in Bit.Trip RUNNER is the lack of any real penalty. If you screw up, you are simply launched back to the beginning of the level. There are no life meters, no lives, no game over screens. The ominous “Nether Meter” from the previous Bit.Trip games has even taken a vacation. The levels are relatively short in comparison to the other games in this series, so the frustration level is minimal.
After two or three hours spent playing, the boss has still been unreachable to me. The level you have to navigate through to get to the boss is probably the hardest thing I’ve played in a while, maybe ever, but I am going to stick with it. I suppose sitting on the edge of my couch with every muscle tensed and the tip of my tongue sticking out of my mouth is a good thing. It just means the folks at Gaijin have made a game that can get my adrenaline pumping and keep me coming back for more.