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First Impressions: Bit.Trip RUNNER

Posted by Sean Aaron

8-bit run amok!

RUNNER is the fourth and next entry in Gaijin Games' six-part Bit.Trip series and we've been fortunate enough to spend some time with the latest build, which has just been sent off to Nintendo for final approval. Though this preview is based on the "final" version of RUNNER, we want to emphasise that changes are still possible in response to feedback from Nintendo, so there may be differences between what's described here and the actual published version of the game.

Players have direct control over Commander Video in this entry (apparently that's always been the case, but in a more abstract sense) in an homage to 8-bit platforming games like Pitfall and Keystone Kapers on the venerable Atari 2600. Whilst prior games in the series have differed from each other they've all had common goals of interacting with "Beats" in order to complete each of the three lengthy musical levels included. RUNNER also has three tracks/levels yet is a major departure not only in structure but in goals as well.

There are still Beats to collect, but they're quite different from previous outings: gold bars (a clear reference to the aforementioned Pitfall) and orange "plus" signs. Also unlike previous outings, rather than having one long level they are broken down into twelve stages each, with the last one indicated by an ominous pixellated skull. These combine to change the game's structure significantly in relation to other Bit.Trip games and should make it more accessible to players who found the previous games overly challenging. Each stage has its own high score and can be replayed on its own (though once one is complete the next will start after entering initials for the stage leaderboard) with the only goal being to cross the finish line at the end of the stage – collecting Beats is completely optional.

just because it's optional doesn't mean there isn't ample incentive to do so. Getting all the gold bars results in a "Bonus Get" Challenge Stage (making hardcore RUNNERs "Bonus Getters" in the parlance of Japan) which is even more of a rip-off – sorry, homage – of Pitfall, complete with 2D trees in the background and campfires to jump over as you try to collect as many pixellated gold bars as possible without slipping up. This is added to your score for the stage leaderboard, so you'll certainly want to pick those up if you want to impress your friends. The orange beats affect the Mega Metre at the top of the screen. Players start out at Hyper level with the graphical and musical complexity increasing every time a "Mega Beat" is picked up. We won't tell you what happens if you get to the highest level, Extra, but it will remind players of the logo of the greatest third-party developer for the Atari 2600, which put the biggest grin on our face imaginable.

Series vets might think from what's been described above that the game is somehow easier and that is sort of the case, but don't be fooled into thinking it's a cakewalk – this is still a Bit.Trip game after all! Commander Video is a sprite with a mission; what it is we don't rightly know, but he is compelled to run and the only thing players do is trigger various actions in order to get him to the finish line. Initially Commander Video is restricted to jumping using (2) (as with the first two games in the series, you hold the Remote on its side). Every other stage thereafter a new action is introduced: pressing down on (DPAD) makes him slide along (bobbing up and down to the beat is great fun) and pressing (1) kicks. That description probably has experienced Bit.Trippers thinking "they aren't going to have sections where you need to jump, duck, kick, jump, kick, etc., are they?" Well, yes, that will happen, and unlike previous games in the series there is no Nether to work back from: only a binary pass/fail. Either Commander Video gets to the finish line or he restarts at the beginning of the stage: there is no "try." You'll have some great music to time your actions to, so don't despair: just turn on, tune in, get into the zone and you'll succeed.

We cannot hide the fact that even after our brief time with it, we think this is shaping up to be the best of the series so far; Gaijin Games have outdone themselves by creating a good balance between challenge and accessibility that will have players thinking "next time I'll time that jump better" rather than throwing down the controller in frustration. Even gamers who don't like platform games will find themselves unable to put down the controller until long past bedtime for one more go – yes, it's that kind of game.

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User Comments (46)

Stuffgamer1

#7

Stuffgamer1 said:

Nice self-referrential link there, Sean.:D

This does sound better than Beat, which is the only game in the series I have (gave up when I couldn't finish level 2). Not sure if I'll give it a try, though, seeing as I'm out of touch on the series narrative (if you can even call it that).

LEGEND_MARIOID

#8

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I've only got Beat and don't want to get Void and Core; however I am probably going to get this. Sounds great!

Imerion

#9

Imerion said:

While I liked Beat, this looks by far to be the most interesting in the series. Wonderful design and the game mechanics sounds interesting as well.

theblackdragonAdmin

#11

theblackdragon said:

oh man oh man oh man i can't wait... having to learn new patterns of moves sounds so interesting :3

NintendoNaut

#12

NintendoNaut said:

This looks awesome! I've said about all the BitTrip games and haven't bought even one. I swear, having to pay $10 minimum is a HUGE deterrent.

Kaeobais

#13

Kaeobais said:

As a big fan of all 3 games, I must say this looks like it could be the best.

bro2dragons

#14

bro2dragons said:

@Stuffy: you could always youtube the cutscenes. there aren't many and they don't make sense unless you're on acid, but if you're OCD.... ;)

Sean_Aaron

#16

Sean_Aaron said:

@vonseux: Yes, The Atari 2600 and other pre-NES consoles were all 8-bit. There is no such thing as a 4-bit processor, though some people like to use the distinction because the older 8-bit machines couldn't push pixels or do music like the NES and its contemporaries.

Koopa_troopa

#17

Koopa_troopa said:

This looks awesome!

We are so lucky Gaijin Games is on Wii! (I just wish the game was longer!) Wait a minute, not that I played it, but if the levels are short this could be over too soon.

Objection

#21

Objection said:

I'm intrigued by this one but am still hesitant. Beat's difficulty turned me off.

shake_zula

#23

shake_zula said:

This looks absolutely AMAZING. Cheers for the preview Sean, I can't wait for this. Just need to beat the other three games now :]

Brainhost

#24

Brainhost said:

Mustbuy. I've loved the Bit.Trip games every single time, and this one might shape up to be one of the coolest yet. I hope they go with 600 points again; it's such a nice price point.

Stuffgamer1

#26

Stuffgamer1 said:

@bro2dragons: I think Nintendo-Naut was referring to the fact that it's impossible to buy fewer than 1000 Wii Points at once.

As for the cut-scenes...probably not worth it. TBH, I'm not sure if I should support the developers for finally fixing the retarded levels-are-too-dang-long problem from the first three games or continue to ignore them for having screwed up so badly in the first place. I don't feel as though I got my $6 out of Beat, and that doesn't speak too highly of the developers at all.

Sean_Aaron

#27

Sean_Aaron said:

As much as some may have differing opinions on past efforts I do hope folk will be open-minded about this one as it's very different from the other Bit.Trip games.

For me there is nothing more exciting on WiiWare than the Bit.Trip games. It's probably because I grew up with the 2600 and I'm ripe for the nostalgia hit they supply; maybe because I like music rhythm games that aren't about playing with expensive plastic instruments, but whatever it is I'm thankful these guys are doing what they're doing on WiiWare and I get a chance to play it.

theblackdragonAdmin

#29

theblackdragon said:

@Sean: How does Runner compare to Tomena Sanner? I know TS isn't rhythm-based (not linked to the music, anyway), and you've said Runner has more moves than just jumping, but the basic idea looks very similar.

Sean_Aaron

#30

Sean_Aaron said:

The first two stages reminded me of it very much, though in RUNNER if you hit anything it's back to the beginning with you. After 1-3 you're sliding and then the games diverge pretty sharply.

Constant movement is the biggest similarity between the two games and I definitely think they share the same "fun zone," so if you like TS, I think you'll enjoy this (and maybe even more).

jbrodack

#32

jbrodack said:

The bit.trip games are all awesome though I still haven't beaten even one of them yet. They are all definitely worth the 600 points though as you will replay the hell out of them. This looks cool though I've seen some people call this a rip off of canabalt. This is more structured and has some basis in rhythm. Its similar but stands on its own.

Donatello

#33

Donatello said:

I haven't played any of the other Bit.Trip games but i'm very interested in this one. Looks pretty rad!

the_shpydar

#37

the_shpydar said:

If there was any doubt before, it's gone now. Instabuy. I also was raised on the Atari 2600, and tend to have a lot of similar game tastes as you, Sean (well, except for the not liking platformers thing!), so if you're singing the praises I know i'll love it.

rhythmheavenfan

#38

rhythmheavenfan said:

Bit Trip is so great, and this one definitely seems like it will hold that tradition quite easily. If Sean doesn't like platformers and he loves it, I know that I will love it even more, as the platforming genre is my absolute favorite!

Namo

#39

Namo said:

Am I the only one who couldn't get into Tomena Sanner?

Anyway, this game looks freaking awesome, and will most definitely be a day one buy for me.

Are there any videos available?

Sean_Aaron

#40

Sean_Aaron said:

Apparently a trailer will be appearing at Gametrailers soon, but they have the exclusive so it won't be up here until afterwards.

Namo

#41

Namo said:

@41

Checked Youtube. Its awesome seeing this game in motion. Screenshots don't do this game a lick of justice.

Sean_Aaron

#42

Sean_Aaron said:

Yeah, I've got other previews to do which are also engrossing games...thankfully one of them is due out imminently!

Ren

#43

Ren said:

Geez, I want all of these so bad but I can't justify any more game purchases right now, and I've always hesitated because I can't even pass stage 2 on Beat. I'm sure I could do it if I just sat and tried 6 times in a row but it takes so long and I'm pretty busy. I'm always worried the other ones will be this hard too, as much as I love beat anyway. (2600 feel, rhythm games; like Sean, it's all my fave stuff in one)

Kenji

#45

Kenji said:

The link at the top of the article is broken. bit_trip_runner should be bittrip_runner

bezerker99

#46

bezerker99 said:

i DL'ed at lunch today. this game pwns! can't wait to get off work to play some more!!!

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