The Bit.Trip games aren’t just fun games in the style of arcade classics, they’re tiny time machines. The Bit.Trip series transports you back to a time when a game didn’t need advanced enemy AI, weapon leveling, or skill trees to be fun. A designer could hang an entire game on one simple concept. Developer Gaijin Games has taken popular game styles from the ‘80s and woven toe-tapping musical effects through its gameplay in order to create an entirely new experience – one that feels like an instant classic. When players interact with the world and enemies in Bit.Trip, they create a musical feedback that blends into the games’ soundtrack. This collection includes all six of Gaijin’s downloadable treasures (originally release on WiiWare), making it a must own for retro arcade fans.
Bit.Trip Beat & Bit.Trip Flux
Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Flux are the games that Pong might have grown into if Atari’s classic table tennis game had ever received some proper sequels. In Beat and Flux, you rotate your Wii remote to move a paddle up and down and reflect a series of pixels back into an empty void. The gameplay is simple, but the way Gaijin combines musical elements with the deflection of each beat is truly ingenious. Flux is slightly more polished, and it throws more complex beat patterns at you, but that just makes it all the more entertaining to fall under the spell of this series’ trance-like chip tune music.
Core is one of Gaijin’s more bizarre concepts. Beats fall from the four corners of the screen and you must light up one of four different trip wires as they pass by. In some ways, Core feels like an imagined precursor to games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. The game board layout takes some getting used to, and it’s hard to get comfortable watching beats fall from four different directions, but once you get into the groove, you’ll feel the same high you get when you play Harmonix’s iconic music titles.
Void is one of my favorite entries in the series. As a tiny black circle, you maneuver around the screen collecting black beats while avoiding white beats. Every black beat you gain makes you bigger but slower. It’s easier to pick up beats when you are larger, but harder to avoid the white beats, so ultimate mastery of the game lies in knowing when to shrink back down. Like all Bit.Trip titles, the mechanics aren’t very complex, but falling into a groove with this game is both relaxing and enthralling.
Runner is like Gaijin’s devolution of a platformer. Your character, Commander Video, is constantly running across the screen and you have to avoid pitfalls and other obstacles while collecting gold. Runner is also one of Bit.Trip’s most challenging titles. I found the game a little frustrating, not because of its difficulty, but because of its repetition. Every single misstep will send you back to your last checkpoint, but these checkpoints are few and far between, and you will often have to jump, slide, or kick through several obstacles before you arrive back at the sequence that is giving you trouble. However, those who put up with its trial and error gameplay will discover that Runner delivers a highly rewarding experience.
Commander Video returns for this odd combination of an on-rails and side-scrolling shooter. Commander Video is attached to a rail line that rolls across the screen, and he must move along that path to avoid incoming fire and collect power-ups that drop from enemies. Several guest characters, such as Super Meat Boy and Mr. Robotube, jump in to help enhance his offensive power or provide defensive abilities. At first, I found being stuck to a rail while avoiding incoming fire a little awkward, but this mechanic actually requires you to be more strategic with your movements, and creates a slow but highly intense shooter.
The Bit.Trip games with their simple gaming interface, rhythmic music, and simple but addictive gameplay will take you for a retro ride. The series’ online leaderboards will also have you coming back to constantly challenge yourself and your friends. A few new difficulties and 120 new achievement-like challenges even make this a tempting collection for those who already downloaded the games individually. I rarely go back to Atari classics, but the Bit.Trip series helped remind my why America fell in love with video games in the first place. The Bit.Trip is like a great early ‘80s franchise that never was, and I’m glad we finally have it.