Beating Bit.Trip.Runner is one of my proudest accomplishment as a gamer. Months of pure concentration and seething hatred culminated in one of the most compelling game I’ve ever played. Then Gaijin Games decided to return with Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future of Rhythm Alien and I knew now that God was not a merciful one but rather one that continuously tries you. So I sat down in front of my computer, took a deep breath, and went down the acid-soaked wonderland once again.
The gameplay hasn’t changed much since the first iteration. You play as Commander Video running through various worlds jumping over obstacles, breaking them down, or sliding under them. All the while you’re collecting gold bars all for a chance at that perfect run.
Then it was decided that it wasn’t enough so new are the rails one grinds or zip-lines from, loops, more complex loops, and far more frequent uses of the sliding jump (which sort of makes you look like a dolphin jumping through hoops). And dances for bonus points. That’s right, there is a dance button that allows you to break down while running but rather than an amusing little inclusion, it is a chance to raise your overall score while adding extra challenge. Let me explain, whenever you hit the dance button, you go into a little animation during which you can’t jump, kick, slide, or block anything. All the while you’re still running so if you time your dances poorly…Well you can see how the game can get difficult.
If the first Runner was a throwback to the days of the NES then Runner 2 is a callback to Saturday morning cartoons. Now I don’t know about you but for me Saturday morning cartoons usually consisted of Digimon, and an animated Jackie Chan along with whatever else Fox and WB decided to play late 90’s early 2000s. Runner 2 isn’t any of that, too modern I’d imagine. Instead it recalls the shows from the 70s complete with Technicolor! They even have a certain voice actor (it’s a me!) narrating the whole thing in a glorious callback to the era.
With this comes a change in aesthetics. Gone are the pixels and bits replaced with a deliriously colorful, polygon based world that is one part Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, one part children’s cereal commercial.
It’s ridiculous how robust the world is especially as it whizzes by you. After all the game isn’t called Stand-Around Do Nothing 2. The problem however is that there so much sensory overload happening at such a breakneck speed that it become quite taxing on the eyes. I’m pretty sure I went blind a couple times. The game is not meant for continuous marathon runs (Dohohoho) and if I wasn’t prone to bright flashing lights before, I am now. The whole thing oozes color and that’s really all I have left to say on that matter.
Oh wait, did I mention the hidden treasures?
Back in the first Runner game a perfect score meant you would travel to a Pitfall like area which allowed you to increase your points further. Now a perfect run means you can shoot yourself out of a canon at a dartboard for more points. Don’t worry though, the Pitfall levels are still there, scattered around the worlds in collectable cartridges one collects to then get transported away. That’s not all though, for a game in which you’re supposed to run from the start line to the end Runner 2 is surprisingly not super linear. Diverging paths lead to harder difficulty paths (with more points of course) but additionally alternate exits that unlock hidden levels, hidden costumes, and more goodies. Then again, some of these paths are blocked off by large padlocks that need to be opened in their own separate ways. Should I slow down a bit? (Dohohoho)
Why do I keep mentioning points? Oh you didn’t ask that question? Well I’m going to answer it anyways. Leaderboards, I’ve come to discover, are an incredibly dangerous proposition. It’s immensely gratifying to see your name above your friends after completing a level and knowing that you’re better than someone else in this insanely difficult game is the best reward of all. I found myself continuously replaying levels in an inhuman thirst of bettering my fellow players to the point where it was dangerous of me to keep playing. (For those of you curious, I’m currently ranked 15 overall so come at me~!)
I suppose I should touch on the music seeing as though the series is primarily a rhythm game. The catchy chip scores are back but with the future comes an evolution from MIDI. More robust sounds can be heard in the five worlds that make up the game, each with their own unique genre. Jazz in one world and ambient trance in another and everything else in between. It’s an audiophile’s dream and if you’re familiar with the Bit.Trip titles then you know that as the player, your actions can contribute to a better auditory experience. Collecting the gold bars and power-ups add new sonic layers to the soundtrack so it is in your best interest to collect everything around you.
Don’t let my words intimidate you from playing though. The last thing I want is for you to think that this game is too much, especially with it established that the Bit.Trip games are notoriously hard. Difficulty settings can ease it up for novice players and checkpoints (totally skipable mind you) are a godsend that save you from returning to the beginning of the entire level after a single mistake. Don’t worry, the game is still ridiculously difficult for those of you who might call foul, but know that the barrier of entry has been lowered for those who need it. After all, it would be a sin for you to miss out on such a game.
Five worlds. An amazing endgame that will have all fans of the series left grinning from ear to ear. Amazing soundtrack from a series famous for its tunes, insane visuals that you won’t find elsewhere, and the difficulty that makes for a true challenge. Add in the constant struggle to beat your friends and this is the closest I ever got to having crack in video game form. This is one game no one should miss out on. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s still a very long road towards 100% completion.
[+How large is this game?!?!][+F*&$ing amazing soundtrack][+The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test][+I’m referring to the visuals in case you were wondering][-Seriously I think I actually need to get my eyes checked][-Some concepts aren’t explained properly the first time around leading to a lot of trial and error][-How the shit did they beat my score?!?!][-You remember getting stuck on that one level? Every level is that level!]