Originally, the Bit.Trip series had caught both gamers and critics’ attention for its unique visual style that embraced its indie roots and never even presented itself as a contender for other titles with multimillion-dollar budgets. Expectedly, with the series’ first foray into a sequel, production values have been boosted and the title has embraced a new visual style over the previous 8-bit graphics. At its heart, however, it remains true to its indie roots and provides a music rhythm experience that is charming, challenging, and whimsical all at once.
To begin, Bit.Trip Runner 2’s entire presentation has been revamped. However, despite the new coat of paint, much of game’s levels still bear the same type of quirky atmosphere that has garnered it such a large following to begin with. Spread into several worlds, Runner 2 features a different theme for each level, all of which bear the same unique and cute tone that has followed the Bit.Trip series thus far. The game offers a multitude of world designs, none of which are similar in the least. At times, considering how fast the game moves, it is a shame to see it all pass by so quickly; any attempt to take in the beauty will not end well for players. Like any other dynamic music rhythm title, the game’s music changes accordingly as players grab gold bricks, kick down stop signs, or slide underneath obstacles. The game is effectively egging you on as you play and it’s extremely satisfying, enhanced even more by a narrative from Charles Martinet of Super Mario fame.
Like its predecessor, Runner 2 drops players into levels where they must run and make it to the finish line, all the while collecting objects and avoiding obstacles. Early levels will be a breeze, giving players relatively few abilities and enemies to tackle through. However, the game’s hectic pace soon becomes apparent as more abilities become necessary and enemies become more abundant. Even well into the game’s third world, more abilities and obstacles are still introduced. Though players can make it through levels without collecting any gold bricks or power-ups whatsoever, which can be as much of a challenge as collecting them all, the game displays a micro leaderboard at the beginning of all levels as to pump up any challengers. In addition, a perfect score on any level gives players a chance to catapult themselves onto a target for a chance to increase their score. Clearly, the goal in this game is not to simply survive and zip through levels, but to perfect them and make it onto the leaderboards, much like any other music rhythm game.
For players who want an extra challenge, the game’s “Rather Hard” difficulty throws even more obstacles towards players, which both creates more frustrations but also amps up their score for a chance at internet immortality. The new dance ability only further tests players, handing an extra 2000 points per dance, which could mean the difference between first and second place on the leaderboards if players can carefully time their dances and fit in as many as possible. Thankfully, mistakes don’t require players to start entire levels over, but only send players back to Runner 2‘s sparsely but fairly, placed checkpoints.
Despite the game’s appeal to the hardcore and perfectionist crowd, there’s a lot here for casual players as well. Just as the “Rather Hard” difficulty places more enemies on levels, the “Quite Easy” difficulty makes every run a stroll and the game’s hectic pace more manageable. It only helps to make the title’s slew of unlockables more accessible, which include a range from additional characters and stages to new costumes for existing characters. The creative design choices are enough to make players work for these characters, which range from the simplistic female Commander Video to a dancer with a hamburger for a head. Runner 2 makes no attempt at masking its alternative, and hardly hidden, exits that lead to unlockables, marked with blue arrows for players to follow. It is somewhat annoying, however, to actually get these unlockables. Keys to the game’s treasure chests, littered throughout both the beginning and end of worlds, can’t be unlocked till the end, which seems like a cheap way of injecting replay value to the title. Additionally, going through alternate exits to find more unlockables means that players won’t progress onto the next level, forcing players to replay the same level again.
If players simply ran through the game and avoided every obstacle perfectly, Runner 2‘s levels could easily be cleared in a minute or so. However, the emphasis isn’t on beating it, but the challenge itself of perfecting every level and creating the best soundtrack possible. For the competitive player, this will keep them playing for hours on end, perhaps even on the same level, all the while the game’s gorgeous visuals will pass them by. However, those unfamiliar with this style of music rhythm game and too impatient to test themselves through constant trial-and-error will quickly grow frustrated with Runner 2.
- Almost endless opportunities to experiment and beat others on leaderboards
- Different difficulties are worth trying
- Beautifully designed levels and fun soundtrack
- Trial-and-error nature may not be appealing to everyone
Available on: PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360; Publisher: Gaijin Games (PC), Aksys Games (Consoles); Developer: Gaijin Games ; Players: 1; Released: February 26, 2013; ESRB: NA; MSRP: $14.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.