Platformers are perhaps one of the most popular, the oldest and overdone genres in gaming. They have been re-thought a bunch of times over the years by adding a few new gimmicks to them, but most of them seem to have lost their touch and are no longer fun the way they used to be.
Today we’re reviewing a platformer that brings back to form the retro style of gaming, eight-bit and all. Everything from the graphics to the music is done in a fantastic way that combines old-school gaming with the kind of deeper gameplay found in newer games. It’s called Bit.Trip.Runner.
Bit.Trip Runner is a very interesting and unique platformer. As I mentioned before, it’s made in a very 8-bit fashion: everything from the graphics to the music, which will bring you way back to older times in gaming. You play the part of this weird-looking black thing called CommanderVideo who falls somewhere in an asteroid, and for some reason he must rush through a bunch of levels collecting coins that are spread all over the levels that you encounter.
You have no control over where your character goes, he (or it, I guess) will always run straight forward and the only things that you can control is when he performs actions like jump, kick and slide down. You must use all these and other actions to avoid obstacles and get to the finish line of each level. You really have to time your jumps perfectly, which is pretty much what the game is based around: timing. That and trial-and-error!
The coins you’re collecting are floating red cross signs scattered across the level that will give your character more color and change your performance to things like “Hiper”, “Extra”, “Mega”, “Super”, etc. Each one of these levels will make the music more intense and increase your score. On the top of the screen you have your score for the level and the header that indicates which level of performance you are currently on.
The game is based in 3 “Zones,” each of which contains about 10 levels and a boss at the end. But it doesn’t stop there: if you collect all coins in a level, you’ll get access to a bonus level where you only get one try, and the points that you get there will count towards your overall score. You can replay these from the menu, which also guarantees replay-ability as you can come back to the game after you finish it just to collect all the coins and unlock all the secret levels.
I was very curious and confused when I saw that the developer called this a “rhythm” game under the description on the App Store. But it became pretty evident once I started playing. Whenever you start a level, the music will consist of a basic beat and some cool synth sounds will be played each time you jump, slide or do any other action.
When you grab your first upgrade (those red cross things we talked about earlier), the music will become more and more upbeat, and new exciting instruments will be added. If you grab all the upgrades, by the end of the level you will be hearing an amazing soundtrack that becomes interactive every time you do anything. Now, this may sound like just another gimmick, but it really makes the game a lot more interesting and fun.
This game is both easy and highly addictive. It’s very simple. Basically all you do in the game is run around, trying to avoid obstacles by jumping. But it’s genius because of the mechanic of the game: if you fail any level you’ll just be brought back to the beginning, doomed to restart again immediately without having a chance for a second thought. This can create frustrating (read: addicting) loops where you’ll just keep playing the same level for quite some time, while failing most of the time.
But it’s amusing, it doesn’t really get annoying since you know what you are doing wrong, and you know that it isn’t anything in the game. It’s nobody’s fault but your own, and this pushes you to keep trying until you prove yourself that you are better than the game.
This game brings you back to a simpler time for video games. One where they didn’t base their popularity in the complexity of their logic, but in the pure entertainment and ease with which you picked it up and were drawn to it time after time. That’s the beauty of platformers, they’re easy to understand, and very entertaining to play. And it’s a genre that has been built upon endlessly with gimmicks like the time-manipulation of Braid, the “play-and-create” of Little Big Planet, and the bizarre world of puzzles of Limbo.
It’s just that with all these additions to the genre, you kind of forget what we used to love about it: that it’s as simple as it is addicting. Bit.Trip.Runner brings back that feeling, at least for me. The first time that I tried it for this review, I couldn’t put it down. Now, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own gimmick. Of course, the crazy colors, the retro feel and the music are all part of its unique angle to pull you in, but they work quite well to that end.
I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t very excited to do this review. I felt Bit.Trip Runner was going to be just another generic platformer, but I was very wrong. It may sound like a simple game, but it’s definitely challenging. The timing and the trial-and-error aspect of it make it highly entertaining; and while those may not be new mechanics to gaming, they will surely keep you playing over and over again each level until you can complete it.
I have a hard time not recommending this game to everyone. If anything, it will steal a lot of your time as you try to beat a level over and over again. Try it for yourself and tell me if you don’t think it’s just some good old-fashioned fun.