Review by c_rake

"Void's originality and accessibility, coupled with its new risk-versus-reward system, make it the best installment in the series yet"

The advent of digital distribution has been a true blessing to this industry, as without it, we wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to revisit favorites or classics from gaming's past, or experience games from small independent developers that might not have otherwise seen the light of day on consoles.

The Bit.Trip series for the Wii, for example, takes us back to a time when games were rendered in 8-bit graphics, and were simple, yet immensely challenging feats that took much skill to overcome. This trip into gaming's past continues in Bit.Trip Void, the third installment in the six part series, with its most original and accessible installment yet.

This time around you're controlling a black ball called the Void, which you have full control of instead of the limited control of its predecessors. Your task is to guide the Void toward black pixels called "beats" that enter the playing field from all directions while avoiding their hazardous white counterparts. This is, for the most part, easy to do. The beats typically move in at a somewhat slow pace -- which makes it easy to grab them -- but the game likes to throw a large number of both types of beats into the mix, making it difficult to proceed through the jungle of pixels safely.

This is made even more challenging by the Void's continuous growth spurts that occur with each beat obtained. This not only increases its size to gargantuan levels, but also severely hinders its movement speed considerably. These hindrances can be easily remedied by shrinking the Void down to its original size; however, the void must grow as much as possible before it is shrunk if you wish to obtain a high score, as every time it's shrunken, the points acquired up to that point are added into the overall total. This adds a risk-versus-reward element to the game, which adds a whole other level of challenge to the already challenging series.

Though the challenge is somewhat lessened by the addition of checkpoints -- a first for the series. Each level contains three checkpoints, and provides only one continue, though more can be obtained by doing exceptionally well throughout the level. The checkpoints don't lower the difficulty level too much, though, as there is still plenty trial-and-error involved, but they do make finishing the levels a less daunting task. I, for example, was able to get through each of the games three levels in a few tries, as opposed to its predecessors which took me many, many tries to do. So it's definitely an easier game in comparison to its predecessors.

And like its predecessors, the game still suffers from the same problem as they did: The lack of leaderboards. While it's somewhat fitting given the games retro-style, the continued lack of leaderboards is still a disappointment, especially given the score-based nature of the game.

Also making another appearance is the retro, and somewhat psychedelic aesthetic that the series is known for, albeit in a toned down form. Rather than utilize the three-dimensional journeys through various environments of its predecessors, Void opts for a simple plain colored background with a grid placed upon it. It's not much at first, but if you perform well throughout the level, the background will start to react to the music in various ways, such as having bits of the grid move toward and further from the screen, or having them become darker then brighter. All that, along with other things like collecting beats, really add a lot to the experience by making it feel as though you're playing a key role in the playing of the music.

The music itself consists of a few catchy pieces of chiptune music (which is a bunch of beeps, bloops, and other similar noises, for those who don't know) that fit the retro aesthetic nicely, blends well with the on-screen action, and, of course, sounds great. The game features three songs in all, which are all very lengthy clocking in at around 12 or 15 minutes, which is also about the same amount of time it takes to finish each level individually.

Overall, this step on the trip into gaming's past is the best one yet. It's interesting take on the bullet-hell sub-genre of shooters coupled with its risk-versus-reward system, make it a more challenging, and fun and addictive game than its predecessors. And the addition of checkpoints make it a more accessible game, opening it up to just about anyone looking for an interesting challenge on the Wii. Though its continued lack of leaderboards is disheartening, that shouldn't stop you from getting sucked into the void of Bit.Trip.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/07/09

Game Release: Bit.Trip Void (US, 11/23/09)

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