A WiiNintendo game review by hattrick.
Game – BIT.TRIP RUNNER
Version – WiiWare (only version available) for 800 Points
Obtained – Review Copy from Aksys Games
Introduction and Story
BIT.TRIP RUNNER is the fourth WiiWare installment of a series of games from developer Gaijin Games and publisher Aksys Games. Like BEAT, CORE, and VOID before it, RUNNER follows an evolving retro style in its look and gameplay. On the surface, it may look like a simple platform game, but deep down, it is a rhythm you are after. For the first time in the BIT.TRIP series, you will control a character. In fact, it is CommanderVideo, who has been the behind-the-scenes protagonist all along. As he automatically moves from left to right, you take control of his jump, slide, and kick in a race to the finish. Three worlds, each with a final boss, separate you from saving the day. Trek across the Moon, the Robotic Mines, and the Big City.
Gameplay and Controls
As with the previous installments, RUNNER keeps it simple. The gameplay consists of jumping, sliding, kicking, and bounding (jumping off a spring platform). All the while, ComanderVideo barrels ahead. If anything stops him from moving forward, it is back to the start for you. Luckily, you have an infinite number of lives, and the game saves after each completed level. Nonetheless, it can still be very frustrating when you make one small mistake at the end of a level and have to start all over again. RUNNER quickly becomes more than your standard action-platformer. Like its predecessors, it is based on rhythm and timing. Every jump, slide, or kick you make correlates to an 8-bit-like sound – meaning that, if you listen carefully, you can time your moves perfectly. While this works in most cases, many players will find themselves trying to guess when best to jump, which may not always work out. Along with that, you will often find yourself dying quite often because an enemy or platform will seem to come out of nowhere. Similar to games like MegaMan, you will only know when something is heading your way after it is too late. You must learn, and then avoid it next time.
RUNNER is played with the Wii Remote turned on its side (NES-style). As stated earlier, ComanderVideo automatically moves forward. It is up to you to help him avoid objects. Most moves are taught early on. Initially, all you will do is jump with the “2 button.” Soon after, you will learn to kick with the “1 button,” slide by pressing down on the control pad, and jump from spring platforms by pressing up on the control pad. While this may seem easy, it is far from it. It helps to think of RUNNER as a platform version of Guitar Hero. Enemies, hills, pitfalls, and barriers are coming for you. Each have a specific button assigned to eliminate them. See a pitfall? Jump over it. See an enemy from overhead? Slide under it. All the while, you must make sure you execute each move at the right time and in the right order. Mess up once, and you are back at the beginning of the level. The good thing is that most, if not all, levels are based on patterns. Learn that pattern, and you should be set to finish strong.
Atmosphere (Visuals and Sound)
BIT.TRIP games have prided themselves on their atmosphere. The mix of retro visuals and sound help make a game that is both great to watch and hear. Visually, RUNNER looks similar to a modern version of the Atari game “Pitfall.” In fact, bonus rounds look even more similar to the classic. While the foreground is simple and straightforward, it is the background that ratchets up the visuals for this installment. ComanderVideo will run in three different environments, each having a stunning array of colors and shapes. However, this is sometimes a downfall. I found myself struggling with depth in some levels. It was difficult to tell what was in the foreground and what was in the background. Until I was able to learn the patterns, I would jump over items in the background and be hit by things I was supposed to avoid. This especially came into play in the Robotic Mines.
While I might have found things to complain about concerning the visuals, that was totally the opposite when it comes to the sound. RUNNER is fun to listen to, boasting a great combination of retro and newer 8-bit to 16-bit-like music. As stated earlier, with every jump, slide, and kick, you will add to the soundtrack. Top that off with point-powerups that add even extra music, and you have yourself a game that is not only fun to play, but also great to hear.
Concluding Overall Impressions
While BIT.TRIP RUNNER may have some flaws, the overall package is great. The biggest complaint I found is the background visuals being a bit too distracting at times. Sure, the difficulty is high, but I do not find that to be a problem. Many games today are too easy. It also has the ability to draw you in, making you say, “just one more time!” Before you know it, several hours have passed, and you are still enjoying it.
Final Score: 5 out of 5
BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a difficult game, but do not let that stop you. Its visuals, music, and gameplay make for an excellent retro-style, rhythm-based, action-platformer that will keep you coming back for more.