Game Review: Bit.Trip Runner (WiiWare)

The Bit.Trip series of WiiWare games feature a few common themes. They’re rhythm based and have a retro look and feel. The music in the Bit.Trip game are ‘chiptunes,’ which are 8-bit sounding electronic songs written by modern day artists. Past games in the series also had old-school gameplay ideas, like ball and paddle or classic shooter elements. And the newest game in the series introduces 2-D platform jumping to the mix!

Bit.Trip Runner stars CommanderVideo, the mascot of the Bit.Trip games. He looks like a walking MP3 music player. He automatically runs from left to right in blocky, stylized retro worlds. It’s your job to help him jump and slide over obstacles and pits.

Play control is easy. Hold the Wii remote sideways like a classic controller. The 1 button is for jumps and 2 will make CommanderVideo kick some obstacles out of the way. Hold down and he’ll slide under obstacles, while up makes him jump high after running over a trampoline block. The music and rhythm gimmick comes as you play. Every action makes a sound which goes along with the beat of the song. So as you play, your correctly timed jumps and slides make the music.

When you collect plus symbols, you’ll get a score multiplier and more tracks will be added to the background music. Also scattered about the levels are pieces of gold. Collect them all in a stage and you’ll be whisked to a bonus level that looks like an old Atari 2600 game where you can collect even more gold! It’s tougher than it sounds, though!

The only problem with Bit.Trip Runner is that it’s way too difficult. I can’t even get past the first boss. There are no lives and you get unlimited tries, but if you hit an obstacle or miss a jump, you get bumped back to the beginning and have to start the whole stage over. Which is frustrating if you’re near the end of a very challenging level. A health bar or a power-up that lets you take at least one hit would’ve been nice for those of us who make mistakes every now and then. A two player mode would’ve also been welcome. However, for those who enjoy challenging, stylized 2-D platformers, Bit.Trip Runner isn’t bad at only 500 Wii points (about 5 bucks).

Kid Factor:

There really isn’t any violence here. When CommanderVideo gets hit by an obstacle or enemy, he just gets pushed back to the beginning of the stage. You can kick things like breakable rocks and robots, but they just look like abstract shapes. Reading skill is helpful for the instructions, but not required as the game itself is pretty easy to figure out. Kids might get frustrated at the extreme difficulty, though. Think of it as an intense training exercise to get them ready for Mario platformers. Bit.Trip Runner is rated E for Everyone.

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