Pros: Stylish look, combines music and gameplay in a very cool way.
Cons: Quality varies, seems a bit pricey for what you get.
The BIT.TRIP series is one of the most intriguing set of games available on WiiWare. Designed by Gaijin Games with a retro look, an electronic score that changes according to your actions and challenging, sometimes addictive gameplay, the games have been popular and critically acclaimed. Now the entire series has been put on disk with BIT.TRIP COMPLETE.
The Basics: Six Games in Five Styles
COMPLETE contains all six BIT.TRIP games, BEAT, CORE, VOID, RUNNER, FATE, and FLUX. The game titles are all in caps, presumably in honor of the lack of lower case characters in early arcade games.
The majority of the games involve pixel-balls that move across the screen. In BEAT and FLUX you have a Pong-like paddle you move up and down by rotating the Wii remote. You use the paddle to hit -balls that fly across the screen in various patterns. The games are quite similar, although FLUX is the better of the two, with more interesting patterns plus the addition of objects to avoid. In CORE you have a laser gun in the center of the screen that fires in the direction you push the direction buttons, the goal being to hit the balls that fly past. In VOID, which requires the nunchuk, you control a black ball that must be used to collect black pixels while avoiding white pixels. Your ball grows as you do this, but you can shrink it when it gets too cumbersome.
The other two games are somewhat different, as you control not a paddle or a ball but instead a humanoid avatar. In FATE your avatar moves along a curving track while fired at by strange creatures; your goal is to shoot these creatures and avoid letting their bullets hit your heart. In RUNNER your avatar continually runs through an obstacle course, and you must use the remote buttons to make him jump, duck, kick and perform other actions.
Presentation: Musical and Stylish
While the games all have different mechanics (except BEAT and FLUX), they share similarities in style and approach. They all fall into the school of memorization-style arcade games in which game objects will always appear in the same place at the same time. All the games have catchy, minimalist electronic music, with beeps and boops added when you successfully deal with the game’s challenges. They all have the look of 8-bit graphics games, with primitive, pixely objects, but they all have visual touches impossible in the 8-bit era. Most of the games also change their look depending on how well you’re doing, becoming monochromatic when you are about to fail. They have various control schemes, and outside of, once again, BEAT and FLUX, they don’t use the Wii’s motion controls.
There are also a few glitches. VOID has checkpoints, but if you fail a level you can’t return to them. And while you can set the difficulty level of each game, in some, like RUNNER, playing the game on easy isn’t actually any easier.
The Individual Games: Two Really Cool Ones
These games have all been huge hits among retro game geeks, who admire their uncompromising difficulty (although the disk versions allow you to change the difficulty settings) and old school style. But my own reaction is mixed. I admire the design of these games, but I don’t find most of them enjoyable for more than a short period of time.
For me, the best games are easily FLUX, almost hallucinogenic in its elaborate visual patterns (read my wiiware review of the game to learn more) and RUNNER.
RUNNER is different, and for me better, than anything else in the series. As your avatar runs, every kick and jump plays a little note that adds to the music. Patterns become increasingly complex, and while the game is often frustrating, and I had to play many of the game’s short levels dozens of times before making it to the end, there is something exhilarating about making a jump, ducking then jumping then kicking an obstacle then hopping up a set of stairs then jumping, ducking, leaping across a series of platforms and finally reaching the goal line.
The Verdict: An Interesting Collection of Unusual Mini-Games, But ...
While I would certainly recommend playing RUNNER and FLUX, I was less excited by the rest of the collection, which makes me hesitant to recommend buying the disk. These games sell on the Wii Shopping Channel for 800 points each, so you could buy the pair of them for a little under $20, whereas the disk retails at $40, which is approximately what it would cost you to buy all the games individually.
Still, if unlike me you have a lot of 8-bit nostalgia, you might love every one of these games, and having the whole set on disk is certainly more convenient than saving them all to an SD disk on your Wii.
I wish I were more enthusiastic about the BIT.TRIP games, because I really do admire the cleverness and imagination that went into them, I really like the way the music makes it feel like you’re not only playing a game but also playing some sort of weird instrument and I’m impressed by how imaginatively the developers have riffed off of the 8-bit theme. But you can’t love everything you admire, and while I sometimes like these games, I just don’t have any BIT.TRIP LOVE.