Bit.Trip Runner Review

BIT.TRIP RUNNER Screenshot - 866504

I'm the type of guy that can't stand to let a challenge get the best of me. I'll retry single sections of games for hours, days, and weeks if need be. To some, such stubborn persistence is a trait to be admired, and to others, an obsessive character-flaw. Right now, it's at the heart of a dilemma. I can't tell if I love Bit.Trip Runner for its deceptively thick layers of difficulty, or hate it for becoming an addictive concoction of distilled aggravation.

Who am I kidding? I love every anguishing moment, even when on my knees, collapsed in defeat

Bit.Trip Runner can easily be mistaken for an Intellivision-grade platformer at first glance. Imposing squares and flat rainbows of color inhabit every texture-less surface. It's only upon closer inspection that the three-dimensional world comes into view. The controls are similarly simplistic. You make Commander Video jump and crouch, and later, block and kick. His movements are impossibly responsive and accurate, almost clairvoyant. Witchcraft or not, you need any edge you can get.

Commander Video charges forward with boundless momentum. He has no lives or health. If he hits an obstruction, he zips back to the beginning of the stage to try again, and again, and again. The first of 36 stages provide a modicum of challenge. The final dozen push the limitations of human dexterity and focus. Step by step, mistake after mistake, each run transforms into a perfect orchestration of maneuvers with the precision of a particle accelerator.

Overcoming the unstoppable waves of obstacles and meticulously-timed jumps is difficult enough. Perfecting a run to collect every gold brick and gather every bonus-point is an entirely different feat of monumental scope, especially if you want to get your perfect score listed on the Bit.Trip Runner website. By collecting every gold brick in a stage, you unlock a bonus area with even more gold bricks, and some of the most difficult sections of the game. The catch is that you only get one attempt each time a bonus area is unlocked, making 100-percent an improbable feat for all but the most foolhardy.

Despite relentless amounts of repetition, Bit.Trip Runner rarely falters in the face of death, and continues forward with unyielding propulsion. Upon death, there isn't so much as a flicker in the screen or a blip in the soundtrack. Commander Video warps back to the beginning, pumps his fist a few times to catch the beat of the music, and he's off again, creating a flowing experience of gameplay. As soon as you're out of play, you're back in again. It's an amazing feature that more games should consider.

Bit.Trip Runner can be considered a musical rhythm game, but the creation of music is the reward, and not the goal. With every gold brick collected and enemy avoided, the chiptune soundtrack pulses with intensity as new layers are added. It pulls at you, begging for release, and in turn, you subconsciously learn to crave it. You don't want gold bricks to raise your score. Points are meaningless. You want perfection to unleash the depths of the music.

As eye-catching as the three visual styles of the stages are, they can also be self-defeating. The first stages consist of grays and blacks, powerfully punctuated with purples and whites. The second area is more tropical, with so many colors and so much movement in the background that it becomes difficult to see the obstacles and gold bricks in front of you. By the third area, most of the color has been drained, leaving muddy browns and lifeless grays. The look is distinctively Bit.Trip, but not inspiring.

You have experienced the excitement of danger, the twists of a captivating plot, and the thrill of victory. But, when was the last time a game made you feel content, that life is amazing, and that you were glad to be a gamer? Bit.Trip Runner requires tremendous levels of patience, determination, and skill, probably more than most people can muster. If you have what it takes, Bit.Trip Runner is absolutely fantastic - a rare game that makes you truly happy to be playing.

Video supplement:

Great

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Brian Rowe
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