Review: BIT.TRIP CORE (WiiWare)

Gaijin Games are back with the second game in the BIT.TRIP saga

The original BIT.TRIP BEAT took the old-school play control of Pong and created a unique and more modern spin on it. It was a bit like the original Pong games, but with far more charm and visual flair. Now Gaijin Games has taken that successful formula and bumped it up a level to give the game a more in-depth control system and a higher degree of challenge. But have they captured lightning in a bottle twice, and does this sequel live up to the lofty standards set by the first BIT.TRIP release?

Gaijin Games didn't try to re-invent the wheel with their sequel to BIT.TRIP BEAT, but what they did do was mix the core gameplay up enough to give the game a feel all its own. Instead of manning a paddle, this time around you're given control of a Core in the middle of the screen. From this core you can fire off a beam of light in one of four directions. With the press a direction on the Wii Remote D-pad, you'll fire off a beam that shows you which direction your laser beam will fire. Pressing the 2 button on the Wii Remote will then activate your beam in the direction you're holding down on the D-pad, and it's these beams that you'll use to destroy the beats flying around the screen. The only catch is, you have to fire the beam off at the exact moment the beats are in the line of fire, otherwise you'll miss the beat and lose your current chain count.

As you take out the individual beats, your bonus multiplier will begin to climb by one each time you destroy a beat in a chain-like fashion. The more beats you destroy in a row, the more points each beat will be worth. You can even ramp up to the Mega and Super Modes, where you can rack up huge points, not to mention enjoy some rather trippy visual effects floating around in the background. If you find the barrage of beats too much, you can even make use of your Bomb by pressing the 1 button on the Wii Remote, although it's generally a good idea to save this for those times when you're in Mega or Super Mode so you can rack up some big points.

Like the previous release, you'll play through levels that are broken down into several sections on the Map. Your ultimate goal is to last through the various sections, at which time you'll face off against the boss of the level. There are even certain challenges that will force you to flip your Wii Remote around to realign the D-pad, unless of course you can change directions in your mind without getting confused. These aspects of the game don't change things up too much, but they do offer a nice little diversion from the standard style of gameplay.

While the first level is tough enough, once you reach the later two stages, Exploration and Control, you're going to have to really be on your toes if you expect to play through them. Not only are the beats coming from every direction imaginable, but they're coming in bunches and at a high rate of speed. It's in these stages that you're going to have to really keep a rapid fire mentality in order to blast all of the beats in each wave. But with this barrage of beats comes plenty of opportunities to rack up an enormous amount of points if you can manage to Mode Up to the Mega or Super Modes.

If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by it all, you can even bring in another player for a little multiplayer cooperative play. This can certainly make bashing the beats a little easier, at least if you can formulate a plan of action as to which directions each of you will cover. You both share the same Core, score and meters onscreen - the only difference is that you have an extra beam to work with. Of course you'll be surprised how helpful it can be when you find a player that knows what they're doing.

BIT.TRIP BEAT's simple paddle-style control method made controlling the game a breeze, despite the rampant challenge the game presented. BIT.TRIP CORE basically takes that simple control scheme and adds a bit of variety to the mix which in turn allows the developers to add even more challenge to the experience. Now with four different directions to keep an eye on, you'll really have to use your peripheral vision a lot if you're to have any chance of beating the later levels. So while the game might be a bit high in difficulty, you're certainly given all the tools you'll need in order to succeed. The control method itself works like a charm, and having the ability to shine the beam out can make it easier to know which direction you're going to have to activate your beam in order to take out the approaching beats. It's clear that quite a bit of time went into the design of this play control system and it shows in the finished product.

It would be easy to dismiss BIT.TRIP CORE's archaic visual stylings, especially considering some of the flashy visual presentations we've seen from some of the other WiiWare releases, but there's just something about the unique combination of Atari 2600-style pixel art with the more modern 3-D psychedelic artwork flowing around in the background that makes CORE so appealing. Maybe it's the retro gamer in all of us, but it just somehow works perfectly with the style of action that's taking place onscreen. Granted, it's certainly not much fun to drop down into the black & white Nether Mode when your performance level drops off, but it's all the more fun when you manage to climb your way out of the funk and make it back to the more modern visuals. The contrasting styles make for an extremely varied visual experience and also play a useful role in letting you know just how well you're currently performing in the game.

If you've played BIT.TRIP BEAT, you already have a fairly good idea what the musical offerings are all about in BIT.TRIP CORE: the same type of pulsing musical beats are back and they're still quite catchy and, given how the musical rhythms play an even bigger role this time around, it won't take you long to get that foot tapping to the beat. This can also help you know when you need to be firing your laser as the bits tend to fly past your laser beams as the current beat pulses. The tracks that play during each of the three levels are quite fitting for the action taking place onscreen, and there's enough variety between them to keep the musical performance from becoming too stale during long periods of play, which since the levels are once again quite long, you'll be thankful for. About the only real complaint you could possibly level with the audio presentation is that the sound effects are a bit bland at times, but of course this is likely the way they were intended to be in keeping with the retro stylings of the game itself.

Conclusion

While some of the new has obviously worn off the BIT.TRIP experience and the high level of difficulty will likely turn some gamers off right from the start, it's still difficult to fault BIT.TRIP CORE's unique and engaging gaming experience. Sure, in some ways the game feels like more of a continuation of BEAT than an entirely new game, but there's still enough new features added to the mix to set it apart from the original, and at least enough to warrant a play. It's safe to say that if you enjoyed the original BIT.TRIP BEAT release, you're going to find a lot to love about this enjoyable sequel. But if you thought BEAT was tough, you'd better buckle up for this one.