This week I would normally be giving my thoughts on a book, but since I haven’t finished a new one yet (I’m close to finishing both the books I’m reading now, but not quite there) I’ll simply move on and look at a video game. The game I’ll be looking at had quite the mouthful of a title. The full title is Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, but often it is shortened down to Runner2, or as I often call it Bit.Trip Runner2. So what kind of game is this rather long title? Let’s jump in and find out.
There is a bit of story to Bit.Trip Runner 2, but that’s not really the core of the game. Basically you play as the hero of the Bit.Trip world, Commander Video, who is sucked into another dimension by his nemesis Timbletot after being hit by a fusion beam. In this new dimension you seek a way to get back home and defeat Timbletot. Between worlds you get a bit of plot narration through a cutscene, but the story is pretty much along the lines of early console platformers. You play the hero progressing through levels to defeat the villain. It’s not a deep story, but as I’ve already said, the story isn’t the primary focus.
While the story is not the primary focus, the gameplay is. Bit.Trip Runner2 is a platformer for those who want a bit of a challenge. The game always seems fair in the challenge though.
The game drip feeds you new moves, particularly in the first world, in a way that tries very hard to not overwhelm. That and the moves themselves aren’t very complicated. You learn various moves like jumping, sliding, and kicking which have their own buttons. While later in the game there are more complicated moves combining these basic moves, liking having to kick while sliding or jump while sliding, these moves are typically only added to the mix once you’ve had plenty of time to get the moves down.
Unlike many of the platformers of older generations, Bit.Trip Runner2 has you automatically running through a level. So all you have control over are the moves you learn. This does add to the challenge as you have to have good reflexes or play until you have a memory of the level to know what is coming up next. If a level is too difficult there are three difficulties that you can play the levels at (easy, medium, and hard) so you can always adjust to suit where your skill level is at.
During each level you, I’d say there are always four basic goals (some of which are more optional than others). The first is simply to get through the level without getting hit. The second is to collect the gold and multiplier upgrades throughout the level to complete a level perfectly. If you accomplish this, the third basic goal is unlocked which is to try to hit the center of a bulls-eye at the end of the level. This will give you a completion rating of Perfect+ for that level. The fourth goal is to try to score the highest amount of points for a level.
You will die a lot throughout the game, but the penalties for dying are rather small. If you get hit during a level you will either rewind to the beginning of the level, or if you have reached the checkpoint in the level, you will simply rewind to the checkpoint. There are no lives, and the level allows you to keep trying as much as you want to.
Throughout the levels there are also secret paths, golden cartridges, and treasure boxes. These collectables allow you to unlock new characters, alternate outfits, and bonus “retro” levels that go back to the style of some of the earlier Bit.Trip style of pixel graphics.
After progressing through a world you have fight a boss character. In many ways these boss fights are like any of the other levels, but simply have times where you need to kick the boss to damage it. The boss battles also have a number of checkpoints so you don’t have to restart the battle from the beginning every time you get hit, which is nice.
With a story that is rather limited in scope, the themes that are within the story itself are fairly limited as well. You get a fairly basic good vs. evil tale that isn’t really developed too much.
Beyond the story though, I think you could argue that Bit.Trip Runner2 can promote other themes, like persistence, pattern recognition and memorization skills. These may be silly things to think of as themes, but so much of the game is about being able to know what action to do when faced with a particular challenge that I don’t think it is too much of a stretch. Add in a fairly limited punishment system that seems to promote memorization and retrying and it’s a pretty convincing case. Maybe theme would be the wrong word to use, but they are certainly things that the game promotes, even if unintentionally.
- Let There Be Color – Bit.Trip Runner2 is a colorful and fantastical game. It does a fairly good job of displaying whimsy and fun parallel to danger and gloom. It just creates a rather unique and fun environment to run around in.
- Energetic Soundtrack – The music also helps create the whimsical feel to the game. It is catchy and rightfully so, because you’ll probably be hearing some of the songs quite a bit.
- Play it Again – Bit.Trip Runner2 has a decent amount of replay value for a smaller, indie game. You can go for the high score on levels, search for unlockables, or go after trophies by perfectly completing every level on all three difficulties.
- Easy to Learn, Hard to Master – As I said earlier the controls are fairly easy and responsive, however the game does get fairly difficult. Personally, I didn’t think that it was ever too hard especially after getting the controls down and practicing a bit. Some may very well disagree and find the game too difficult though. With an easy difficulty level this shouldn’t be too big of a thing, but I understand that not everyone likes a challenge.
- Great for Short Bursts – While I enjoyed Bit.Trip Runner2 it was not always a game that I enjoyed playing for long periods of time. Sometimes I would, but it was often more enjoyable if I tackled a few levels and then moved on.
- Repetition is Repetitive – A good portion of this game is about repetition. If you’re stuck on a level you will have to repeat it until you are able to pass the obstacle that is barring your way. Even if you don’t get stuck, levels can start to feel repetitive after awhile. This might be why I enjoyed the game more in short bursts.
- Shoot the Bulls-eye – One of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me was the Bulls-eye that showed up if you collected all the gold and multipliers for a level. There were times where I did really good at consistently hitting it, but then other times I was terrible at it. As I said it was the most frustrating part, and wasn’t all that enjoyable to me.
- Running by the Scenery – This is a minor gripe, but the world of Bit.Trip Runner2 is so colorful and often so alive in the background, but because you’re constantly running the background has to be largely ignored. If you don’t then you’ll probably make a mistake and get sent back to the beginning. You kind of want to see all the stuff going on in the background because it is enjoyable to look at, but doing so typically results in messing something up.
Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien may be a mouthful, but I found it to be a highly enjoyable game. It is a challenging game, but I found it to be a fair and enjoyable challenge unlike some games. It rewards both natural skill and practice. It also places the challenge in a colorful and entertaining world. Throw in a decent amount of replay value and you have a game that will be enjoyable to play for some time, even if you may not play it in long sittings. It is definitely worth the $5 price tag for the PlayStation 3 and even the slightly higher prices for the Vita or on Steam.
I should also note that I played this game on the PlayStation 3, and a controller helps immensely. I remember trying the earlier Bit.Trip Runner on the PC with the keyboard and it was not very fun. So I do recommend playing with a controller for the best experience with this game for whatever platform you choose.