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Bit.Trip RUNNER Review

Bit.Trip RUNNER (Wii)
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
Released: May 17th, 2010
MSRP: 800 Wii Points

Bit.Trip RUNNER is a 2D autorun platformer; much like the recently released iPhone/PC title Canabalt. The player takes control of Commander Video, who has previously only been seen in the cutscenes 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 Activision’s Atari 2600 title 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.

This would not be an issue if RUNNER were a more forgiving title. The game has no midlevel 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. However, occasionally this makes RUNNER an exercise in frustration. 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. It 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 that are clear inspirations for the series. The environments are often colourful and vibrant. However, in the later part of the game surroundings are far more monochromatic and dull. Much like the difficulty system; this 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 the series. RUNNER features some of the most interesting, catchy and all around pleasing 8-bit music in the series. 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.

Bit.Trip RUNNER is a fun experience that comes highly recommended. RUNNER has the same retro aesthetic that makes the series endearing. However, the uncharacteristic change in difficulty and departure from the established tiered system of reward/punishment for achievement may prove frustrating from fans that have grown accustomed to the series. While this alteration may be frustrating at times and difficult to ignore, at 800 Nintendo points RUNNER costs; you cannot go wrong with the latest title from Gaijin Games.
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About Kyle MacGregor Burlesonone of us since 1:40 PM on 02.16.2009

I used to work here. Now I just hang around and make a mess.

PSN ID:cadtalfryn
Steam ID:cadtalfryn
Mii code:3967-7516-0229-0303


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