Sequels in the video game industry too often are the kiss of death for what would have been an otherwise stellar intellectual property. Games like Tomb Raider and Sonic the Hedgehog have been consistently re-done and sequeled until they are mere shadows of the original game that brought them so much fame. The guys at Gaijin games decided to do something innovative by making a series of games with each one having such different mechanics than the one before it that each title could almost be a stand-alone game. The fourth and newest game, Bit.Trip Runner, holds true to this formula of innovation even more successfully than its predecessors.
Bit.Trip Runner is what the game’s designer Alex Neuse calls an “on-rails rhythm- platformer”. To be more specific, one would have to call it an “on-rails self-scrolling rhythm-reflex-platformer”. In it, players get to take control of Bit.Trip‘s protagonist, CommanderVideo, for the first time in the series. Each level starts out with the Commander playing a little air guitar, then taking off on a full speed foot race through the course. You have no control over CommanderVideo’s speed or direction, but you do control his various other movements with the Wii remote held horizontally. You must focus on kicking, jumping, sliding, and more at precisely the right time to avoid the various stationary and mobile obstacles the game throws at you, or you will be sent back to the beginning of the level. As if the chore of reaching the finish line wasn’t daunting enough, you will also need to collect the score multiplier bits and the piles of gold bullion (collect all of the bullion in each level and you unlock the bonus stage) that are scattered throughout the level. You have unlimited tries to learn from your mistakes and master each level, most of which are short. Restarting hardly takes more than two seconds, so you barely have time to get mad at yourself for your failure before you’re back in the action. This system may sound frustrating at first, but once you wrap your head around it you will be glad for this fairly unused concept in gaming.
If you manage to survive the action of the main game with all of the piles of gold bullion in CommanderVideo’s pockets, you will be treated to a retro themed bonus level. The graphics and hissing audio track are total throwbacks to the Atari era of gaming, and the stages are modeled after Pitfall. The bonus stages seem to be hundreds of times more difficult than the main game and feature tons more gold bullion to collect, campfires to jump over, and holes to avoid. Mastering these extremely difficult stages will be a great way for high score junkies to get to the top of the scoreboard after becoming experts at the main mode of play.
The breakneck speed and nail-biting tension of Bit.Trip Runner is complimented quite nicely by the art style Backgrounds are vibrant and look like 3D models constructed with over-sized pixels. In some levels, the backgrounds are filled with so much movement and color that they distract from the task at hand, but this only serves to add to the challenge presented by the game. Along with the eye-catching visuals you get a great soundtrack. Each level’s song starts out as a low key chiptune track in the background and is accentuated by CommanderVideo’s various movements. Throughout each level you collect score multipliers and each successive one adds an additional layer of complexity to the song until you are left with an all-out chippy mega dance hit. It is unfortunate that the official soundtrack isn’t able to capture all of this auditory goodness (you only get the first layer of each song on the soundtrack), but it is still a fun to listen to.
Even without any multiplayer options, it is hard to find any faults with Bit.Trip Runner. The nostalgic feel of the graphics and soundtrack is perfectly implemented and the super hard bonus stages should bring most players countless hours of replay. Gaijin has proved that a sequel to a video game can be more that just a regurgitation of old ideas, and that a sequel can stand on its own two feet and provide something new for players to enjoy. Bit.Trip Runner not only is sure to give fans of the series countless hours of playtime, but put them on the edge of their seats waiting for the final two games to be released. With E3 just a couple weeks away, one can’t help but to wonder if we’ll get an info as to what those final two gems will be: perhaps CommanderVideo will be piloting flying unicorns in a 2D space rhythm-shooter, or navigating a pogo stick through a bit-laden asteroid field. With a game series that exhibits the versatility that Bit.Trip has, the possibilities are virtually endless.
The first boss in action.
|Great graphics, chiptune soundtrack, solid gameplay, continues the story of CommanderVideo without being stale, value-priced at $8||High level of difficulty, unconventional system with no lives and infinite continues may be a put off for some people|
|Verdict||You should get Bit.Trip Runner, unless you are allergic to really good and challenging games.|