The Bit.Trip series has been known for its bit-y visuals and it’s difficult, rhythm-based gameplay. While the recently released second Bit.Trip Runner definitely keeps the latter tradition, the former is mostly shed for a whole new visual style. The tradition of calling the game Bit.Trip “something” has also been somewhat morphed with an extremely long and perhaps unnecessary title, ‘Bit.Trip Presents: Runner 2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.’ The game starts off with a basic enough premise that puts our hero, commander video, in this beautiful adventure. The story is simple but well presented from the start with some nicely done cut-scenes.
The game is based on the basic mechanics of the first game. You don’t control your character’s forward momentum (which is constant), only his actions. These actions get slowly introduced one after another, giving you a couple of stages to get used to each one. That slower introduction to new mechanics was a huge relief, after the first runner game having an enormous difficulty curve that was simply an overly hard lesson in trial and error by the end.
Both games have the same basic moves: jump, slide, block, kick. All of these have corresponding obstacles spread throughout the game’s levels. The new level of gameplay on a pure character level comes into play with the now-possible combination of these moves. Sliding, kicking and jumping can all be combined. You can do all three at once now if you so desire. Outside of purely character-based changes, there are plenty of new environmental things such as rails, speed-boosters, and new kinds of trampolines. All of these things do add a lot more variety, and some amount of difficulty, but surprisingly still not quite as much as the first game. It’s just a little less reliant on pixel perfect timing and memorizing levels, having more to do with getting the controls down and, of course, following along the music.
The sound design in Bit.Trip Runner 2 is nothing short of the usual amazing. Like the visuals, the more old-school music type is dropped, but the new style follows the same laws. Starting out with a simple rhythm that is supplemented by the sound effects of collecting gold and avoiding deadly things, each time a little plus sign gets picked up, the music gains a whole new layer. The whole time you feel encouraged to follow along the music. Sometimes it even helps you do better. By the end of the level, if you’ve done well, you will have a full-fledged song going on and the stage will end in the most satisfying of ways.
Other than the upgraded visual and audio assets, and the new accessibility of the game, there is simply a lot more content and a lot more polish. The new world map replaces a simple level select, splitting the game up into five worlds. Each of these worlds has its own unique theme to it, from the ocean to the forest to the universe. There’s an elegant system of keys and chests to unlock new characters and skins to play with. Each world actually has a key vault, being a level in itself, that once completed will make it so new sections of levels in that world will be unlocked. The whole idea of multiple pathways within levels is a new one, and a good one. There is an indication before the option to choose a direction as to which path is harder. Said difficult path usually leads to a reward: something cosmetic, or perhaps a retro level. There’s 25 retro levels in the game, all done in an 8-bit style.
Outside of finding and going through all the retro levels, there is plenty for a completionist to do in Runner 2. There’s the usual achievements and then there is the ability to go for a “perfect” on each level, in each difficulty. You’ll get a nice map full of bullseyes, representing the the cannon-shot at a target you get at the end of any level you get a perfect on. If you want to go even further than that, you can go for highscores. This is where the real challenge of the game comes in, especially with the dancing mechanic introduced in the second world. Hitting a button will lock you in a dancing animation for maybe a second, which can be a long time. Getting a top score involves finding the perfect moments to dance, as well as blocking all the right things and sometimes picking the right paths. It can get quite insane, and it adds a huge element of replayability for those that are into that kind of thing.
The second Bit.Trip runner takes the excellent mechanics of the first and expands on them, mostly through the ability to combine moves together. It then takes the great, yet basic, visuals and music of the first game and brings them to a whole new level. Even then, that would almost just be an upgraded version, which this game certainly is not. It packs in an excellent new world map that shows progress in a meaningful way. It lets you measure your progress in the way you want, leaving options for casual players with its slower learning curve, and for the hardcore players that want the challenge of finding secret levels or going for a high score. Above all, Bit.Trip Runner 2 is a blast to play. It’s easy to lose yourself in its satisfying, rhythm-based gameplay.