Bit.Trip Runner Review
By Mitsuo Takemoto |
How challenging do you prefer your games to be? If you answered "maddeningly challenging to the point that I want to smash my controller and hunt down the families of the developers," then Bit.Trip Runner is the game for you. Bit.Trip Runner is an on-rails platformer, meaning the world automatically scrolls by at a rapid pace and you have to jump over, slide under, and crash through the many, many obstacles that come flying at you. It's similar to the popular iPhone game Canabalt, except here the levels aren't randomly generated and you can make your way through each stage by memorizing patterns. The retro presentation here is really outstanding but the insane difficulty ends up getting in the way of the fun.
Carefully placed in each level are gold bricks to collect and boost your score. You don't have to collect any of them and many are placed in precarious spots so you usually need to make the choice whether or not it's worth it. The level ends when you cross the finish line. Here's the thing: there are no checkpoints in Bit.Trip Runner. Make one mistake, even if the finish line is in sight, and you are sent all the way back to the beginning of the level, which can be incredibly discouraging.
Grab all the gold in a level and you'll unlock a bonus challenge that sends our hero, Commander Video, running through a Pitfall-inspired area. These are nice, but it would have been even better to see references to other classic games besides Pitfall, as well – every bonus level looks exactly the same here.
Super Meat Boy makes a cameo in Bit.Trip Runner.Without checkpoints, some levels are way too long. At that point the game stops being fun and instead becomes an exercise in frustration. I find myself ignoring the gold pieces and merely trying to get to the finish line so that I may forget the level ever happened and never return to it again. Adding checkpoints would have kept the game enjoyable without losing the challenge. I play games to have fun, not to be punished, aggravated, or annoyed.
Each level ends with a boss fight that usually amounts to dodging the obstacles it throws at you while waiting for it to come in close so you can jump kick its weak points (for massive damage). Unfortunately, these encounters are governed by the same rules as the regular levels, meaning even if you've almost defeated the guardian you have to start all over again if you take one hit.
Aesthetically and sonically, Bit.Trip Runner is glorious. It looks like an Atari 2600 game package come to life. Fans of retro games and pixel art will probably fall in love with Runner at first sight. And the chiptune soundtrack is superb. At first the bleeps and bloops are merely pleasant, but when you realize that every move you make adds to the soundtrack -- that you are creating the soundtrack -- you appreciate the music on a whole new level.
Bit.Trip Runner supports game pads on the PC, which gives you much more precise control than your keyboard.