lilt line (WiiWare)

Game Review

lilt line Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Meet Commander Video's less-confident little brother

There's a reason Gaijin Games, as young as it is as a developer, already has a strong and devoted following, having taken addictively throbbing beats and married them to some of the most intense gameplay we've ever seen. It takes periodic trips to a sunnier, much simpler era of gaming, and redefines the experience as a plunge into dangerous and unnerving darkness, undercutting high-concept, passively philosophical musings with cheap puns and physical comedy (or should that be the other way around?) To put it flatly, Gaijin works to push the entire experience of being a gamer forward, reminding us of why we got into video games in the first place.

And it's done all of this (and certainly more) with BIT.TRIP: a manic series of genre-hopping, thumb-crunching, sleep-stealing rhythm games. As the series has grown and progressed, fans have attempted to anticipate (nearly always inaccurately) the experience that each new installment would bring. Now that the series is drawing to a close, however, another question arises: what will Gaijin Games bring us next?

Their early answer to that question is lilt line, a game recently released for the iPhone, and even more recently for WiiWare.

It's apparent from the moment the game begins that lilt line will share more than just a publisher with BIT.TRIP; it shares its rhythm-based gameplay experience, its infectious grooves and its effective (sometimes haunting) minimalist visual approach. All of this just begs to be compared to its more popular sister series, and that would be a serious problem if lilt line was a disappointing release. As it stands, however, the comparison is well-deserved, even if lilt line doesn't quite manage to fill those big shoes.

The game is controlled by holding the Wii Remote NES-style, twisting it toward and away from the screen in order to move the line up and down (again, the BIT.TRIP comparisons – here to BEAT in particular – are not out of line.) The screen autoscrolls to the right, often at downright sadistic speeds, and it's your job to prevent the line from colliding with walls and corners, which seem to be deliberately arranged in such a way to keep you from ever blinking again.

The line will periodically pass through a thick vertical rectangle (often with a visible buffer for error), and, when it does, you must hit a button (you have several choices of which to use, depending upon what feels most comfortable for your grip) on the beat to see the background visual dynamics, and to keep the song fully layered. At this point, it's almost insulting to keep pointing out the BIT.TRIP similarities, but you get the picture.

Each level begins with the highest score possible, and counts down from there every time you hit a wall or skip a beat. If your score falls to zero, the level ends. If you manage to make it through a level without hitting anything or missing your marks, you'll get a "perfect" notification on the high score list, but this is easier said than done. Often you will be lucky just to scrape through a level with a measly hundred points or so. But, hey, nobody said it was going to be easy!

As this is a Gaijin Games release, the expectation of brutal difficulty would be a fair one and in that respect lilt line pretty much delivers. There are only 15 levels, but don't expect to pass many of them your first time through: they are designed to require several attempts, and sometimes need ten or more tries. Oddly, however, the difficulty curve feels more like a difficulty wave. Some levels are relentless, requiring trial after trial just to finally make it through with an embarrassingly low score, only to be followed up by a level (or two) that can be zipped through without any problem whatsoever.

This unsteady increase in difficulty would not be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that levels only unlock once you successfully complete the previous level. This means that certain players may find themselves trapped behind the challenge of a particularly malicious early level, preventing them from experiencing the easier ones that surface later, which they might well be able to handle and enjoy.

There's also the problem of level length, which seems to want to achieve two different goals at once. The levels are too short for the player to really feel at one with the (often great) songs that shape them. Just as you're getting into the groove the level ends, sometimes leaving you with a feeling of mild dissatisfaction. And yet, despite their abbreviated length, they sometimes feel unfairly long, thanks to their intense and relentless challenge.

When you're twisting and turning your Wii Remote the levels feel interminably long until you conquer them, at which point you'll wish they were at least long enough for you to appreciate their music. Perhaps longer levels, stretched out by the inclusion of somewhat calmer, breath-catching segments, could have addressed both of our concerns at once, but as it stands, the levels are tough enough to feel too long, and dissatisfying enough to feel too short.

But as far as complaints go that's really all we can say, and without question there are gamers who will feel perfectly at home with lilt line's length and approach.

This game very often feels like it should be called BIT.TRIP: LITE, but that's not such a bad thing. Its controls are almost suspiciously tight and its music – though all too brief – is phenomenal.

The fact that the score works by deducting points from a maximum (rather than building up from zero) does seem to redefine the score readout as a sort of numeric health bar rather than anything to get excited over, thereby limiting replayability, but for many players BIT.TRIP was more about the experience than the score.

If you were one of those players, lilt line just might serve as a brief, wispy reminder of how Gaijin Games managed to cement such a strong reputation so quickly.


For any fan of the BIT.TRIP series, lilt line is a necessary purchase. Whether or not you will end up enjoying it as much as those releases is up for debate, but it hews closely enough to those games that you're bound to be at least somewhat satisfied. Apart from some mind-boggling decisions in terms of difficulty, lilt line is a pretty smart buy. Just don't expect to return to it as frequently as you do the adventures of Commander Video.

From the web

User Comments (28)



Corbs said:

Great review Phil. I enjoyed this game a lot. Can't wait for FLUX.



wiiandthekid said:

the review is right on the nose. can't wait to see what else this relationship with different cloth and gaijin games brings out.



theblackdragon said:

i think the reason i didn't enjoy this game as much as entries in the Bit.Trip series is because you didn't get rewarded with better-sounding music; the drive to improve your game just wasn't there. in the Bit.Trip series, if you do well you're rewarded with hyper, mega, ultra, etc. and so forth, and the music works its way up into a glorious chorus of cyber sounds that blows your miiiiiiind... but in lilt line, it's already as good as it's gonna get as soon as you start the level, and it only gets worse from there as you miss notes and hit walls. it's more a desperate scramble to keep what you have instead of a hope-filled journey to better yourself.

i know i'm reading too far into it, lol, but that's how i felt about it. there's totally a place for both kinds of games in the world, naturally, and it was worth the 500 points, but i won't be making any kind of perfectionist deal out of it. and i still can't wait for Flux, gimmegimmegimme~ :3



Corbs said:

Des, you're like one of those little mice in the mazes that needs that constant flow of reward cheese in order to keep moving around. LOL



differentcloth said:

i can assure you we are more of a cheeky nephew that throws ice-cream around at parties than a small brother that lacks confidence.

thanks for the review though!



Link79 said:

I honestly wasn't too thrilled by this. I think I'll just stick with the Bit Trip games.



Token_Girl said:

I think the level length betrays it's origin as an iPhone game. I wouldn't want them to be any longer, because it makes it possible to pick the game up anywhere. I see how it would be an issue for WW though.

I wish I could get the soundtrack somewhere though.



imapterodactyl said:

The game was a blast on iPhone, and this version is equally good. I agree that maybe it was a better fit on the portable device, since it definitely seems to be designed for short bursts of play. But those bursts are frickin' delightful, and the Wiiware release is definitely worth a purchase if you don't have an iPhone/iPod. That being said, if you DO have an iDevice, I'd go with that version instead. It's just as good, only $2.99 instead of $5, and you can carry it with you anywhere.

I'm glad the Wiiware version came out and put this game back on the radar... it reminded me that I still need to hop on the app store and get helicoid, Different Cloth's other game. I wonder how it stacks up?



Kid_A said:

Great review! I still can't believe I've never played a Bit.Trip game. I'll have to rectify this...



iphys said:

Wouldn't it be more annoying to play this game on an iPhone with having to tilt the screen and not being able to see it as well at all angles though? I suppose if I had one I would go with the cheaper version of the game, but I didn't have any qualms about paying $5 for this game.



LittleIrves said:

Philip, apologize to the cheeky nephew at once!
Just played the first 4 songs from the demo, and I was loving it (once it got a bit trickier). Didn't want to play any more songs since I didn't want to spoil the experience for when I DL it later. Which I will. Sure, maybe not as full-featured or tight as BIT.TRIP, but it is in uncapitalized letters, you know... Wish there was a DSiWare version. Could have crazy extra visuals on the 2nd screen, or something like math problems or blinking lights to distract you...



imapterodactyl said:

@iphys: yes, after playing both versions in rapid succession, I would have to say that the Wiiware version is a little easier since you don't have to tilt the screen (although, that was part of the charm of the game imo.. there was a learning curve, but it certainly wasn't annoying... heck, the game was designed around the platform afterall). The Wiiware version adds a little difficulty though with the extra distracting effects on the screen every time you hit a beat. They can be disorienting, somewhat making up for the lack of tilting. And yes, the game is definitely worth $5. Heck, I spent $7.99 to have both versions and don't regret it a bit. (I'd get both versions of Bit.Trip.Beat too, but for a few more weeks I'm still stuck with an iPod touch 2nd gen, which doesn't support Beat. I have a friend with a jailbroken 2nd gen, so he was able to install Beat, but when the visuals get crazy flashy it slows down and hampers the gameplay. Smooth as silk on my brother's iPod 3rd gen and iPhone 4 though).

Also, I'd have to say that I very much disagree with the "difficulty wave" comment in this Lilt Line review. Based on my scores, I'd say that each level is certainly more difficult than the last. That being said, I'm not the greatest at these games, and I didn't have to play a single level more than twice to pass it on the Wiiware version, except for the very last one, which took me 6 tries to finish by the skin of my teeth. The difficulty in this game for most folks will be purely in getting high scores. I very much doubt that the vast majority of players will hit any "walls" preventing them from accessing all the levels the game has to offer. For most players, they'll see every level in the game within 30 minutes, easily.



RantingThespian said:

For 500 points, this is a good game. Yes it isn't as good as the BIT.TRIP series, but still a decent game on its on.



imapterodactyl said:

It's different than the Bit.Trip games though, other than the basic rhythm theme. If Gaijin made a game that plays like Lilt Line, I'm not necessarily convinced that it would in fact be BETTER than Lilt Line. It's great fun... I just wish it had more levels. I'd easily pay $10 for a nice 30-35 levels. High score grinds are fun, but I'd love more songs and line tracks. But once again, that would require Nintendo to let up on it's super silly 40MB restriction. You know, the same restriction that's preventing Super Meat Boy from Wiiware release, which is an even saltier wound since Meat Boy's actually in Bit.Trip.Fate.



Kyloctopus said:

The Family Tree of Wiiware
Great Graphics---------------Great Music
Art Style Light Tracs-----------Bit Trip Beat
Lilt Line



Ignatius said:

I love the game on both the iDevices and on WiiWare, personally I feel like the WiiWare controls are a little bit more steady, but the iControls are more apt for quicker up and down movement. Great game all around!



Odnetnin said:

Well in addition to be being amazingly well-written as usual, this review has swayed me to get the game when even the demo couldn't. Good job, Chicken.

Also, I totally had the chance to get this for free recently but missed it. I'm such an idiot.

P.S. As a ridiculously fanboy-ish BIT.TRIP superfan I feel compelled to point out that Commander Video is actually spelled "CommanderVideo" without the space (evidence: http://www.gaijingames.com/?cat=24). That is all.



Porky said:

Who are the Developers? Gaijin Games? The're only listed for publisher.



Zach said:

The developer is different cloth, and the game page has been updated accordingly. Sorry for the omission.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Haha, sorry differentcloth! I meant that the lilt line itself is CV's little bro, not you guys. Now I know to put some plastic down before I invite you to any birthday parties though!



kurtasbestos said:

Huh... I played the demo, and everything about it seems like the kind of game that I would love (my favorite game of all time is Rez, and my favorite WiiWare game is Art Style: Light Trax, so you can see the pattern), but something just didn't seem right. The visuals and music are awesome, but the levels I played were indeed way too short. Mostly, though, I just can't see myself getting any replay value out of this. So I don't know... I might still pick it up if I'm not completely broke for the next year or so due to all the other games I want to buy.

*edit - Wait, that's a lie. Saturn Bomberman is my favorite game of all time. It's extremely important that you, people from the internet that I'll never meet, know this about me.

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