Review: BIT.TRIP BEAT (WiiWare)

Feel the beat!

It seems nowadays if you want to revive a classic videogame idea, you only need add in some pulsing musical beats and some flashy background visuals in order to do so. The creators of Lumines managed to revive the stale "falling blocks" puzzler of the 80's with this formula, so what's to stop someone from doing the same thing for a game that's widely considered to be the granddaddy of video gaming?

The gameplay in BIT.TRIP BEAT is quite simple. You hold the Wii Remote in your hands sideways. To move your paddle up or down you simply tilt the Wii Remote forward or backward. This is your sole means of control in the game, although you can press various buttons on the Wii Remote to make different sound effects if it makes the overall experience more enjoyable for you.

Your paddle is located at the left side of the screen. During each level a barrage of Pong balls called "Beats" come flying across the screen at varying speeds and patterns of movement. Your job is to make contact with these Beats using your paddle which will in turn repel them, much the same way the original Pong was played. But unlike the original game, scoring big points is where it's at in BIT.TRIP BEAT and the only way to do that is by repelling as many Beats as you can, and in succession if at all possible. Of course this isn't always easy as the speed and patterns of the Beats tends to become increasingly difficult, not to mention that you'll also encounter Beats that can negatively affect your Paddle, such as the red Beat that will cause your paddle to become temporarily immovable.

You have two meters in BIT.TRIP BEAT that determine your scoring opportunities. The Mega Meter at the top of the screen is the one you'll want to fill up as quickly as possible, as this will take you into Mega Mode where you can rack up some big time points. You fill your Mega Meter up by successfully repelling Beats. But there's also another meter in the game you'll have to deal with called the Nether Meter, which begins to fill up each time you miss a Beat. If you miss enough Beats and your Nether Meter drops to a certain point, you'll be taken to the Nether Mode where everything is in black and white and closely resembles the original Pong game. If your Nether Meter becomes completely filled up, it's game over.

Each level is broken down into several sub-sections. You'll have to repel the constant flow of beats in each section at which time you'll be able to pick up Transition Beasts at the end of each section that allow you to move on to the next portion of the level. At the end of each level you'll have to face off with a boss. These boss fights play out pretty much just like the regular levels themselves with a barrage of Beats being tossed your way. The only real difference is that as you repel the Beats, they slowly begin to take out the boss. Once you've dispatched the boss you'll move on to the next level where things tend to become quite a bit more challenging.

If you have more than one player you can all join in and play the game together in a cooperative fashion. Each player gets their own colour of paddle, but since all of the paddles are on the same side of the screen it can be quite difficult to keep track of your paddle with all of the other players constantly moving over your paddle. You'll quickly find out that playing this co-op game can be more trouble than it's worth in the long run.

The control itself is very responsive and very easy to pick up quickly. It might take you a few minutes to get the feel of the game down, but once you do you'll find the entire play control scheme quite intuitive. The only real negative to the control system is the confusing way the paddles are handled when there's more than one player. You're best bet if you have more than one player is to just take turns playing the game as a single-player experience. You'll find it far less frustrating and confusing that way.

The visuals in BIT.TRIP BEAT are interesting, to say the least. While the game at least tries to keep some of the classic stylings from the original Pong, the game does toss in some very unique backgrounds to mix things up. Many of these background visuals are constantly moving around and pulsing, not to mention the variety of bright colours that are used throughout them. The basic paddle and balls look just like their classic counterparts, for the most part, so it's nice to have the contrasting backgrounds to give the game a little more modern flair. It also sets the mood perfectly when you find yourself zapped into the Nether Mode where the game takes on the old black & white look of the original Pong. The varying graphic styles feature both a look of nostalgia and modern conventions and ultimately form a very unique visual presentation that will appeal to both the new generation of gamers as well as fans of the original Pong.

The music is easily the focal point of BIT.TRIP BEAT and is probably the single biggest upgrade from the original Pong games. The background music is subtle, but features a solid pulsing beat that becomes the backbeat of the entire game. The game then uses a unique variety of sound effects that are carefully blended into the gameplay itself to somehow make the two come together to form a very catchy musical experience. It's fun to hear how the sound effects that the player executes by repelling the Beats forms a large part of the actual musical track itself. The developers have somehow managed to weave the two together to give the audio a greater importance in the overall scheme of things and it adds a nice new dimension to the audio presentation. The musical tracks even show a good amount of variety inside each sub-section of the levels as to keep them from becoming too repetitive.

Conclusion

BIT.TRIP BEAT takes the basic idea behind Pong and carefully crafts a more modern and musical version of the game that somehow retains all the easy-to-pick-up gameplay of the original, yet adds in just enough new elements to make it appealing to a whole new generation of gamers. Sure it would have been nice to have had a few more levels to play through and possibly a competitive multiplayer mode, but it's still difficult to fault the developers given the inexpensive 600 Wii Point price tag. About the only downside to having a game as much fun to play as BIT.TRIP BEAT is that with only 3 levels, you'll definitely be left wanting more. Of course, that's if you can finish it.