December 7, 2012 1:52 AM | Staff
[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the Winter Bundle available now on IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]
I'm going to be honest, and with no disrespect intended to Gaijin Games, but I was one of those people who just didn't "get" Bit.Trip Beat when it came out. It was pretty, and there were some good tunes, but the amount of praise granted to the entire Bit.Trip saga seemed a bit out of place to my weary and cynical eye. Of course, I'm not here to discuss Bit.Trip Beat, but instead I've been asked to tackle an entirely different beast. Once I got to continue my own little Bit.Trip I began to see why the series was so darn appealing, thanks to what is arguably the best entry of the series. For some reason, there was something about Commander Video's cheerful jogging that won me over in Bit.Trip Runner.
Bit.Trip Runner is a rhythm platformer in every sense of the word. Certainly all platformers require a bit of finesse and rhythm to master, but there isn't a better example of a platformer that intrinsically connects jumping with beats. The key here is that every obstacle is connected to a beep or a boop that actually ties into and enhances the rather excellent soundtrack quite well. Sliding through a tunnel is a satisfying triplet, bouncing on a spring grants a lovely arpeggio and collecting multipliers adds in more layers to the initially spartan soundscape. Where far too many rhythm games place you in the role of a passive influence, the music of Bit.Trip Runner is far more entwined with your gameplay and your skill.
You will have to work for your tunes though, as the game is quite tough. Bit.Trip Runner is an early example of the now slightly trendy auto running genre, so your performance is exclusively based on timing all of Commander Video's moves to match whatever is coming your way. This actually makes the similarities to traditional rhythm games a little more apparent, but keeping the varied obstacles straight feels somehow more rewarding than simply playing a blue note, and the challenging difficulty rewards those who value practice and strive for perfection.
Now me, coming from someone far less disposed to perfection, would probably appreciate a checkpoint or two during some of the longer levels because those are when the game is at its most frustrating. But during the short and sweet levels that make up the vast majority of the game's library, Bit.Trip Runner puts on a terrific show for the eyes and ears. When looking for a rhythm game that does things a little differently, Bit.Trip Runner is a favourite example of mine. Even out of the rest of the games in the series, it remains my de facto top choice. There's something comforting about the wonderful electronic jogging.
[Hamlet, Greed Corp, Bit.Trip Runner, Conquest of Elysium 3, Leave Home, and They Breathe are available in the Winter Bundle now at Indie Royale.]