Review by Archmonk Iga
"Rather than make its immense challenge fun, Runner makes the challenge both a bore and a frustration."
I've got some things that I'd like to get out of the way before I get to my actual review of Bit.Trip Runner. First, I know I said multiple times in my review of Core that it is just as engrossing as Beat. Well, you heard it here first: Core is not nearly as good as Beat. I still come back to Beat, showing my friends, surprising them and engrossing them (I even got my father hooked!). I never come back to Core these days. You can't really have such a cool control mechanic and beautiful music in a game and expect its sequel to have that just plain cool factor as well. I don't know why I seemingly equated it to Beat when I gave it a somewhat significantly lower score, but I just wanted to clarify.
So now here we are with Runner, the follow-up to the extremely drab Void and fourth overall in the Bit.Trip series. And while I often found myself saying **** this game, it's so dumb! during playtime with Void, I found myself saying simply **** this game! during playtime with Runner. As a hardcore gamer, I can honestly say that games should absolutely be challenging, but they should never have their players saying **** this game.
A whole new look and feel to the Bit.Trip series, Runner actually brings Commander Video into the gameplay. The story is as bizarre as before, but it seems that this time our hero (or heroine, Commander Video looks genderless to me) is making his way through the city and terrain of some planet. It's a cool futuristic vibe that really changes the series, and while we still are completely clueless about the story, it does indeed seem more focused and gives us a feeling that we have a distinct goal to reach.
The graphics are completely different from the first three, with lots and lots of basic 3-dimensional shapes covering the areas you run through. I love the solid coloring of everything, both in the background and foreground, and I think it really helps add to the tone of the game. That being said, the graphics are so unusual that they don't feel quite as tribute-ish as the first two Bit.Trips, which I thought was one of the main ideas behind the series. I'm not complaining, it just seems to go against the concepts behind the series' background.
Since the Bit.Trip games can be associated with the music/rhythm genre, I am sad to say that the music in Runner is one of its greatest downfalls. While its electro, fast-paced nature certainly fits the mood, it isn't memorable at all. This is partly because right when you get a powerup and it starts to get good, the level is over or you die, resulting in the music and beats to be gone in an instant. The randomized beats that play every time you get past an obstacle can be unpleasant too, and even offbeat in some cases. Not to mention some are recycled throughout the entire game, no matter what level you're in. It gets repetitive but at the same time it's not even there for very long.
Runner is a sidescroller of sorts, except Commander Video is constantly running instead of having you make him run yourself. Your goal is to reach the end of every stage by jumping, kicking, sliding, bouncing, and blocking any and all the obstacles that get in your way. Every time you get past an obstacle, a random beat will play to make enhance the stage's music. The obstacles are this game's equivalent of the balls hitting the paddle in Beat.
Obstacles vary by stage and by the end of the game you will be truly tested. At times you will have to jump and attack at the same time and slide right as you land. Timing and memorization is key again, and hearing the notes play as you progress is, both literally and figuratively, music to your ears. There are also powerups to gain that make the music better (mega mode, super mode, etc.), but their only purpose here is to give you more points. You can also collect gold in every stage to gain more points and be given the chance for even more points in an old-school bonus stage, which can help add to replay value.
And as you have probably heard, this game is extremely hard. Excruciatingly so. If you slip up, you are sent to the very beginning of the stage. Even if that finish line is within sight, forgetting to slide under that last little ball of doom will send you right back to the start.
And this is where the game falters. I always love a challenge, but my reasons for my frequent outcries of **** this game! while playing Runner are many. First, it's simply a dumb idea to make Commander Video such a weaklingcouldn't he have like three heart-meters to give us three chances before we're sent back? Just one extra chance would make more sense. Or how about a checkpoint system? Even just ONE checkpoint. Even better, how about the good old fashioned difficulty settings? You know, Easy, Medium, Hard? They coulda done it.
There's another reason I often found myself saying **** this game getting sent back to the beginning means repeating the same parts of the levels over and over again. So before you know it, you'll have the beginning of a stage memorized only to get screwed over by something later in the game. Memorization has always been important for the Bit.Trip games, but with Runner it quickly gets very mundane. You'll be repeating levels dozens of times, so going through the exact same motions with the same repetitive music all these times gets extremely boring.
As you'd expect, boring is only half of the equation. Losing a lot can make you angry while playing a game, but since Runner forces you back to the very beginning, you'll get extremely frustrated. Runner is both boring and frustrating all wrapped in onewho woulda thought? And the boss fights? About the same, only worse.
Runner's gameplay is very cool and a challenge should always be welcome by all gamers. But the challenge here is just so wrong that it makes the clever and fast-paced gameplay ideas fall flat.
If you were the best videogame player ever and never, ever died, this game could be done in under an hour! But chances are you are not that person, and you'll be repeating levels over and over again. It can add up to at least five hours. It's just a shame that those five hours are so repetitive. For the devoted players, you can go for the gold (literally) in every stage, which is far from a walk in the park. Again, there are no online leaderboardsdo the creators even listen to our requests anymore? Also, this is a single player game, so playing with friends will require taking turns between deaths. If you can handle the frustration and boredom, the replay value in Runner is actually pretty decent. If not, it will quickly become another blank channel on your Wii homepage.
REPLAY VALUE: 5/10
Right now, I am listening to Dr. Dre's The Next Episode. That awesome staccato beat and Snoop's smooth flow remind me of Bit.Trip Beat. If Snoop was forgetting his lyrics and failing to keep up with the beat, then the song would remind me of Bit.Trip Runner. I think this exemplifies how I feel about both games.
I knew what to expect in terms of gameplay and I wasn't let down. In terms of how the game works with its difficulty is a whole other story. Combine that with the less-than-stellar music and beats and you can see how Runner just doesn't quite live up to what I had hoped.
You know, I emailed the Bit.Trip creators once, asking if they had plans to make more levels for Bit.Trip Beat. They responded that there are currently no plans, but that extra Beat levels would be awesome. Here's hoping that we get those extra levels someday, because I don't know if I'll be interested in any future Bit.Trips after playing Void and Runner.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/10, Updated 06/01/10
Game Release: Bit.Trip Runner (US, 05/17/10)
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