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Bit.Trip Runner Review

RUNNER completely reinvents the formula of previous titles in Gaijin Game’s acclaimed Bit.Trip series while building on what made past titles so compelling. Previous Bit.Trips have taken on surreal and abstract approaches to paying homage to Atari 2600 titles such as Pong in BEAT and Missile Command in CORE. For the fourth installment in the Bit.Trip series, RUNNER embraces the genre of mascot-based platformers that was hugely popular during the 1980s and 1990s. 

RUNNER is a 2D autorun platformer much like the recently released platformer Canabalt. The player takes control of Commander Video, who has previously only been seen in the cut-scenes of prior Bit.Trip titles. This means the player does not control forward movement, and progression is determined by the player’s ability to avoid obstacles. Jumping over, sliding under, breaking through and shielding from numerous obstacles is what separates Commander Video from the finish lines of RUNNER’s 36 levels.

Collecting gold bricks scattered along any given level in RUNNER will increase the player’s score. Managing to collect all of these bricks will send you to a bonus challenge reminiscent of Pitfall. However, collecting these bricks not only adds to the score but also the game’s challenge. They are often placed in difficult locations that may risk causing Commander Video to collide with a nearby obstacle.

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This would not be an issue if RUNNER were a more forgiving title, but the game has no mid-level checkpoints and one mistake will send Commander Video back to the beginning of the course. Gone is the “nether” of previous titles in the series, as well as the Game Over screen, having been replaced with a system that affords the player the opportunity to try until he achieves success…or becomes so frustrated that the Wii-remote is thrown through the television screen. Generally this system provides an appropriate challenge and a reliance on rhythm that has become the staple of the Bit.Trip franchise. Occasionally this makes RUNNER an exercise in frustration as the game is absolutely brutal in some instances. Personally, over half the time it took me to complete the title was spent with a single level.

I walked away from that level of RUNNER several times feeling nothing but anger, frustration and contempt for it. Being so close to the finish line and being robbed of victory due to one slight mistake was almost unbearable. The amount of memorization, split-second reaction and precision that portions of this title require definitely detracts from the experience at the moments when you encounter them – this coming from someone who really enjoys Megaman and Ikaruga. But, i
t is to RUNNER’s credit then that it makes it incredibly difficult to put the controller down. Despite frustrations, the addictive nature of the experience that compels the player to try one more time or play one more level may result in coaxing the player into extra hours of unintended gameplay.

Aesthetically, RUNNER is just as pleasing as any other title in the series. The retro stylings are reminiscent of the Atari 2600; a clear inspiration for the series. The environments are often colorful and vibrant, however, in the later part of the game surroundings are far more monochromatic and dull. Much like the difficulty system, the color change is an artistic choice that may upset players that are less than interested about the series’ subtly profound story. The music is once again the main draw to of the series and RUNNER features some of the most interesting, catchy and all around pleasing 8-bit music to date. Depending on how well you are playing, the music becomes more engaging, intense and enjoyable as the level progresses from its mellow beginnings to its climactic ending.

7.5: Good (Bit.Trip RUNNER is a fun experience that comes highly recommended. It has some hard to ignore faults, but at 800 Nintendo points you cannot go wrong with picking up the latest treat from Gaijin Games).

Rating
7.5

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