Review by manticora_2k

"The most recent entry in the Bit.Trip series is difficult, frustrating and unforgiving; it is also brilliant"

Mixing platforming and rhythm to create a strange hybrid genre, Bit.Trip Runner, like its predecessors is heavily centered around its music. Players take control of Commander Video as he frantically charges through three zones encompassing 36 levels, the aim of the game being to reach the finish line without crashing into anything. As you duck, jump and spring, more blips, beeps and layers are added to the soundtrack resulting in you speeding past the finish line in a rainbow-laden blaze of triumph. That is, of course, after you've spent the best part of 20 minutes going splat.

Runner keeps one foot firmly planted in each genre, neither playing like a rhythm game nor a platformer. Getting through it with rhythm or reflex alone is difficult and success will require a synergy of the two. Like Mirror's Edge, Runner is at its best when it's on the cusp of being too hard. The first stages in each zone are generally the most fun while the latter portions are spent literally banging your head against a wall until you get the moves down perfectly. Bit.Trip Runner has no check points whatsoever; make one mistake and you are immediately hurtled back to the beginning of the stage. This is not so much of a hindrance at first but some of the later levels are long and take many attempts to master. It can be punishing but thankfully there is no other penalty for mis-stepping. As with games of this ilk, the exhilaration of dexterously maneuvering its obstacles makes it eventually worth the trouble.

Commander Video has only a handful of moves in his repertoire but, frankly, what's there is more than enough. Holding the Wiimote sideways, you jump, duck, kick, block and launch from springboards while forward motion happens at a constant uninterruptible speed. This method of control is okay, however if you're in possession of the Wii Motion Plus you will likely have to detach the add-on to get a comfortable grip. Also, after about an hour's play, cramps are not uncommon. It's a pity the game does not support the Classic Controller as it would be quite well suited to it. The pointer and motion controls are not used, and thankfully so, as with five buttons to contend with, the game is challenging enough!

As mentioned, the goal of play is to successfully reach the finish line; littered throughout each stage, however, are gold bars to collect. At first these highlight your path through the level but eventually they serve as temptations which often lead you into more danger than necessary. Collecting every gold bar in a level grants you access to a bonus stage. These are plain, scoreless levels, littered with large numbers of gold bars. Collecting all of these is much harder than in the normal stages and you only have one shot at it. If you are a completist, high score fanatic or a cat, this part of the game is for you. It is also the only incentive for replay. Lastly, the final stage of each zone is marked as a boss however the gameplay remains largely the same. You're still dodging obstacles; you just have to make do with less warning and throw a few timely kicks. It almost sounds easy!

In terms of presentation and style, Runner gets an A+. The retro, blocky graphics and 8-bit inspired soundtrack mesh together exceedingly well; the overall effect is endearing and nostalgic but most of all energizing. Successfully dodging obstacles and collecting items results in more sounds and depth being added to the backing track. This has the effect of building a wonderful sense of momentum as you progress, though unfortunately, it is often cut short because one of your jumps was a quarter of a second off. As far as variety goes, each zone has its own look and the final boss gets its very own location. The bonus levels, with their even more retro decor, are nice at first however it would have been good to see some alternative looks as they remain uniform in appearance throughout the course of the game. All this being said, if you prefer your games to be at the forefront of graphical and technological advancement, you may not appreciate the style; though, considering this is WiiWare, you're probably shopping in the wrong place anyway.

For anyone who enjoys platform games, rhythm games or anything requiring ninja reflexes, this is likely a suitable choice. At 800 Wii Points it is slightly cheaper than most WiiWare titles; compared to actual games that live in boxes, this is much much cheaper and you're likely to have more fun with it than numerous titles which may be 5 or 6 times the price. The game's main detractor is its harsh difficulty, as such it can become infuriating if you're easily vexed. Small doses are the key! (Or no doses, as the case may be)

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/21/10

Game Release: Bit.Trip Runner (EU, 05/14/10)

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