Bit.Trip Runner was one of the biggest surprises ever on WiiWare. Although the previous Bit.Trip games were excellent, the abstract presentation really turned off a lot of mainstream gamers from enjoying the franchise. But Runner was different.
Runner presented people with a very familiar veneer — a game that looked like one of those countless “runner” games on mobile devices. But in actuality, it was more than that — it was still very much a Bit.Trip title — and in my opinion, it’s easily the best of the franchise.
So, the people have spoken, and we’re getting another Runner game — this time, with a much bigger budget, and with a lot more features.
Let’s see how it turned out.
I’ll be honest — when Gaijin Games decided to move the series into a less retro-centric direction, I was worried. Part of the charm of the original was the excellent presentation of the endearing 8-bit visuals on top of a functionally sound game. At first, I didn’t like the new art style — but then I saw it in action.
It just…flows so well, and now, I actually prefer it. For you purists out there, there are a number of retro bonus levels to enjoy, so you’re not left out! For the purposes of this review, I tested Wii U version, which is confirmed by Gaijin to be running at 720p, and also contains superior load times to the 360 and PS3 versions of the game. It also has full remote play, no strings attached, from menus to full gameplay with no noticeable lag — it’s a really nice touch.
Musically, it’s just as good as the original, if not better, given the wider variety of sounds this new version works with. The game’s sound effects, from the kooky cartoonish cutscene sounds to each individual “beep” and “boop” while controlling your hero are very pronounced, and are timed to the background track.
There’s a lot more content on offer compared to the original on top of the game’s 100+ level count. The Super Meat Boy/Mario 3-esque map has a few surprises as well, including secret exits, areas, and more.
In short, Gaijin manages to make backtracking endearing, which is something hardly any developer can boast to date. There were a few times where I felt like the locales were a bit repetitive, but this only really occurred to me in part of the game’s second world.
Commander Video has all of his old tricks, like jumping, sliding, blocking, and kicking, but there’s a whole lot more to keep track of now. The Commander has to control at least one object with the right analog stick, he can grind rails, and he has a lot more obstacles to handle this time.
Like the original, all of these concepts are slowly given to you over time, and like a conductor who slowly adds instruments to his symphony, it all comes together eventually into a giant production involving every technique.
Any secret objectives you can find are very clearly defined, which is a great thing, since you don’t want to spend all of your time chasing things that aren’t there. At the start of each stage you’ll see what secrets each level contains, and you’ll have a basic idea of how to nab them. Somehow, Gaijin struck a balance between “too obvious” and “too obscure” in terms of delivering what it is you need to find.
The absolute best addition to the game is the new dance ability, which allows you to quickly bust a move for more points when you’re running on a straightaway. The dance button is just…genius. It’s so subtle, but it actually functions like the taunt button in a Devil May Cry game.
It’s completely optional, but it can up your score and your skill level if you can fit it in at any possible moment. Yep, basically any free nanosecond that you have, you can dance for a higher score. It’s an optional risk that can put you in harms way if you’re not careful, or something you can ignore entirely.
Thankfully, checkpoints are a more pronounced thing this time around, which will help a lot of people out who were frustrated with the original (including boss checkpoints, so you don’t have to redo an entire five minute level flawlessly).
For the purists out there, there”s also multiple difficulty levels, the highest of which completely turns off checkpoints for the ultimate challenge. Like Super Meat Boy, it’s the game that keeps on giving ten times over, in the sense that it offers you a near limitless amount of options to keep playing.
Speaking of playing constantly, you’re going to be doing a lot of it as you uncover all of the secret areas, characters and costumes. You’ll also be able to battle friends with the game’s built-in leaderboards, and battle yourself with in-game achievements. It’ll take you around five hours to complete the game in a bare-bones manner, but a lot more than that to find everything.
Strangely enough, Runner 2 also works very well as a “pass and play” game, given how open ended the levels are. You’ll surprise people as you find new exits that other people didn’t see, or you’ll have fun competing to get the highest score locally. Given the relatively short time length for each stage, this is an excellent party game.
Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien really caught me off guard. I didn’t expect much from the new art direction, but once I saw it in action, I instantly fell in love with it. The soundtrack is still endearing, the characters are as likeable as ever, and the gameplay really was turned up a few notches.
If you enjoyed the original, give Runner 2 a try — if you didn’t, and you’re a rhythm fan — try it anyways.
This review is based on a digital copy of Bit.Trip Presents…Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien for the Wii U.