|System: Wii,||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gaijin Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aksys Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 4, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The focus, then, is more on the design's evolutionary leap, and the newfound self-awareness it provides by allowing you full control over your void, a concept interestingly reflected in the game's Freudian level names (Id, Ego, and Super-Ego). The control you're given is a double-edged sword, though. In previous Bit.Trips, the core design focused entirely around pattern memorization. One could only learn how and when to react to each game's increasingly complex maneuverings, and act accordingly. Not so in Void. Since your void goes anywhere you move it, the opportunity to screw up is vastly higher than in past iterations. Rather than being tied down to a design track, you're free to tackle any pattern in any way you see fit. It's still pattern memorization at the end of the day, but with the freedom of movement, it can be harder to tell how to approach a particular pattern set.
Gaijin also seems to have been all too aware of this, and created some really devious obstacles to survive. Things may start off with long strings of white or black dots, but in later stages they'll grow and change shape, alternate between black and white, swirl, spiral, clump together, and simply bombard the screen, usually at a pretty fast clip. Controlling the size of your void can be equally as challenging too, with special dots that vastly increase its size, or suck up all black dots in range. There's no doubt that Void keeps you on your toes, and can actually be quite nerve wracking, until you fail a stage enough to remember the patterns. However, like Gradius or Contra, learning the necessary maneuvers to simply survive a stage often requires multiple playthroughs simply to figure out what the pattern is, and where safety lies. Things can get pretty hectic, but the level design is consistently well made, if for a few lulls every so often. In particular, the end of the level boss "fights" are also a treat, and pay homage to ingenious re-interpretations of Pac-Man, Spy Hunter, and, yes, even Gradius. Void is nothing if not humbled before a common arcade lineage, and it shows very prominently throughout the game's design.
As a step in the series' continued evolution, Void is both surprising and well done. It doesn't quite top my favorite in the series, Core, which has catchier music that remains a larger part of its design, but it comes close (Void does have music from Nullsleep, a very good chiptunes artist, however). And for six bucks, you can't really go wrong. I just can't wait to see where the series goes from here. For me, the journey to get to how exactly how the Bit.Trip evolutionary track will play out, and what that could mean for Gaijin's philosophical intentions, is worth every penny.
CCC Freelance Writer