|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC*, Wii U|
|Dev: Gaijin Games|
|Pub: Aksys Games|
|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Crude Humor|
by Robert VerBruggen
Everyone's favorite rhythm platforming series, BIT.TRIP, is back. BIT.TRIP Presents ... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien—yes, that's really the name—keeps all the franchise's trademark features, upgrades the graphics, and offers a more reasonable difficulty curve for beginners.
If you didn't like BIT.TRIP before, you won't like it now—there are still plenty of things about it that are frustrating. But fans of the series will find more than 100 well-designed new levels, and newcomers will find the friendliest BIT.TRIP experience yet.
For those who haven't played the original BIT.TRIP: Runner, here's how it works: Your character, Commander Video, for some reason cannot stop running. Rather, as he sprints from left to right in a series of 2D stages, he has to react to obstacles in a wide variety of ways—such as jumping, sliding, jumping and sliding at the same time, whipping out a shield, and kicking. If he doesn't get the timing quite right, he instantly warps back to his last checkpoint.
The world Commander Video is stuck in is loaded with gold bars and assorted other goodies, and each makes a sound effect. In an amazing coincidence, the pace of Commander Video's running is just right to make all of those sound effects work with the background music to create a melody. For all you nerds out there, this effect is known as "synesthesia."
Structuring the stages this way can make BIT.TRIP Runner feel mechanical at times—you're basically learning to enter a precise series of button presses in time with the music, and the timing can be incredibly demanding. But this technique also gives the game a flow that most other platformers can't match. Conversely, the platforming gives the game a sense of purpose that most other rhythm games lack; how many hours have people wasted learning to push buttons on a fake guitar?
The new stages here will certainly please longtime fans. Over the course of the early levels, the game gradually introduces new maneuvers and ramps up the difficulty. While Runner2 gets tough soon enough, it doesn't mount the same all-out assault on your patience that its predecessor did. And the stage design is terrific; it's always amusing to see how various platforming sections match up to the catchy melodies you're helping to create.
There's also just a ton of content here. In addition to the standard levels, there are bonus stages accessible via hidden exits, extras, "retro" stages, characters to unlock, and plenty more. Further, because many of the gold bars are difficult to get, you can extend your playtime by trying to collect them all rather than just trying to run through the stages without getting killed.