Two years ago a colorful little Pong-like indie game took me by surprise and unexpectedly rocked my world. With its addictive gameplay and fantastic soundtrack, the charmingly retro Bit.Trip BEAT introduced me to what has become one of my favorite series of all time. Over the last couple years Santa Cruz-based Gaijin Games’ delivered some of the best games of the generation in the last place you’d ever expect to find them — WiiWare.
Though that platform may have limited the series’ audience, most that are lucky enough to have stumbled across the Bit.Trip games have nothing but kind words to say. They helped remind me why I began to love games in the first place. Hopefully now that they have been compiled on physical media for retail release these games can reach a wider audience.
While I could re-review every game included in the package, I think I should probably err on the side of brevity. Rather than take up your entire day with a multi-thousand word article assessing each individual title in the compilation, I’ll just put it out there that all six of these games have been met with almost universal acclaim, garnering awards and a great deal of support from a cult following.
What makes them so appealing? Well I suppose that depends on who you ask. Many players will find the challenging gameplay rewarding. Others will revel in the series’ retro aesthetic. Music fans will be delighted by an incredible chiptune-inspired soundtrack and the rhythm-based gameplay. And for those willing to dig a litter deeper, there is a subtle story at play.
The Bit.Trip games follow the life of our pixelated protagonist, Commander Video. While it can easily go ignored as the visuals and score overwhelm your senses, the narrative can really enhance the experience for those that become truly enamored with the games. Personally, I found the series’ conclusion to be particularly emotional. I oftentimes found myself in a trance when playing FLUX, driven into surprisingly deep thoughts for a game that looks like Pong at a glance.
Players can also expect an incredible amount of variety. Despite being a series, the Bit.Trip games couldn’t be more disparate. While each game is rooted in a similar aesthetic, the series draws from an incredible variety of classic games. Pong and Missile Command most obvious influences, but long time gamers will be able to point out so many more (particularly the boss encounters) in a series than spans the genres of shooters, platformers, and even bullet hell games.
If you’re already among the initiated, rest assured that Gaijin Games hasn’t forgot about you. No this isn’t just a straight port of the WiiWare titles you’ve probably spent hundreds of hours with, it’s a collection complete with bonuses that make this the definitive version and a must own for any hardcore Bit.Tripper. While this might be a hard sell for those that already own the entire series, even the most seasoned players will find many, many hours of new gameplay here.
That is all thanks to the 20 new challenge levels that have been added for each title in the series — making for 120 new challenges in total. While players will be able to complete some of these challenges in a few minutes after a couple tries, others will take hours to master. I frequently found myself shouting at the television with a smile on my face, angry at myself for making a fatal mistake. Nonetheless, I found myself addicted, oftentimes playing for hours when I only intended on sitting down for a few minutes.
Other bonus features unseen in the WiiWare originals are online leaderboards, added difficulty settings and various unlockables for you dedicated players out there. If you’re willing to put in a little extra time an effort there is additional music, video, concept art, and even several letters from the developer discussing the series’ deeper meaning waiting to be unlocked.
Among these bonuses is a CD that features the soundtrack from the games — something I’d be entirely willing to pay for hadn’t I already done just that. The soundtracks have seen individual releases digital albums that, all together, cost about as much as a of COMPLETE. Most companies would use this kind of thing as a pre-order bonus, so the fact that this is a free pack-in is amazing and only serves to enhance the value of an already fantastic package.
The Bit.Trip games are near flawless and there isn’t a whole lot more you could want from Bit.Trip COMPLETE as a package. It offers some of the best games of the generation and an incredible amount of added content at a value price. And what with the complete drought of quality software on Nintendo’s home console, Wii owners looking for a good game really have no excuse. Buy this immediately.