Bit Trip Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Vita) Review
- Gorgeous graphics and whimsical design
- Greatly improved difficulty curvee
- Suited to the Vita/Portable format
- Incredible soundtrack that's integral to the game
Not so much?
- Game gets VERY hard in the later stages
- Controls sometimes feel unresponsive
Bit Trip Runner 2’ s graphical design, cartoon’ish whimsy, musical prowess and smart design all combine to offer an experience that is a joy to play from start to finish. Bit Trip Runner 2 is a symphonic sensation and with it being one of the better PS Vita titles you really have no excuse not to buy it!
Bit Trip Runner 2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (here in known simply as Bit Trip Runner 2!) is a game that pretty much everyone can enjoy. A low barrier to entry means that anybody can pick up the game and instantly know what to do. It’s pretty simple – run from left to right through an obstacle course jumping, sliding and kicking your war as you go.. that’s it! As we know though these things seem simple to start but, as in other titles like Joe Danger or Trials , the simple things are the ones that will hook you for hours and hours.
The biggest criticism I could ever levy at the original Bit Trip Runner was that it was hard as nails. It’s chunky retro look and wonderful chiptunes lured you into a game that would punish you for lack of skill – it was however still great fun. It occupied a special place in a niche market, like Super Meat Boy does, that built a very loyal and vocal following.
Developer Gaijin Games seems to have taken that criticism onboard this time out for Bit Trip Runner 2 as the difficulty curve is much more forgiving and cleverly paced. That said the game still requires split second timing and as the level count progresses you’ll find that vicious difficulty-level still alive under the hood. Much like Super Meat Boy the game is fair, for the most part, levelling the fault of your consistent demise squarely at your feet. The pace and balance of each level is the key to the entire game being a challenge or a frustrating mess. Bit Trip Runner 2 manages to tread that tightrope will skill and painstaking ease.
Out are the chunky retro graphics. In is a super bright palette of Saturday morning cartoon shades that’d probably make a children’s TV presenter nauseous. The wonderfully bright visuals just pop and sparkle with creativity and remind me greatly of the general art direction employed by Hello Games in their Joe Danger series. It all whips by at a frantic pace and never looks anything less than wonderful. CommanderVideo, and the other unlockable characters, all move like possessed puppets with lovely silky smooth animations.
Runner 2 does a superb job of slowly building up the skills at your characters command. Starting with the simple single button press to make the character jump then progression on to down for a slide, right for a block, button for a flying kick etc. Each element is slowly introduced after which you’re given a level or two to comes to grips with the action before it gets integrated in to the repertoire of moves needed to complete each level. As mentioned each level of Runner 2 has your character making their way, at a fixed speed out of your control, from left to right. You might think “oh like those runner games on my phone?”, but you’d only be partly right. The original Runner title was an early pioneer of this style of play and the understanding of the genre by the developers is clearly a factor that helps set Runner 2 apart from the countless others in this arena.
As well as turning over the retro graphics to embrace the new, Bit Trip Runner 2 has also flipped the script on the music too. Out are the wonderful chiptunes of the first title. In is a gorgeously produced score that compliments to whole game superbly well. In fact the game would be much, much poorer with the sound turned off. That’s not a slight against the mechanics of the game – it just highlights that the musical side of it is intrinsic to the gameplay. As you run along a super pop-tastic tune burbles along in the background. Each action you take as you run triggers a sound cue that sequences into the score and make it whole. The timing of each tune, the placing of each obstacle or enemy is split-second perfection almost every time. The tunes will get in your head and a symphonic-synthesis of movement, music and percussive reaction will become ingrained in your subconscious. It’s something beautiful to experience in full flow.
Small criticisms can be levelled at the game, but I’m talking minor quibbles that many will shrug off. The difficulty, although addressed from the first game, is still punishing. The bright musical world will suck you in but it’ll also crush you if you’re expecting an easy ride. Early levels are a breeze, later ones can be soul destroying. It’s a game that casual players, or smaller children, could become frustrated with later in the game. If you’re going in with eyes open and expecting this type of split second challenge then you’ll most likely be in a position to just suck it up. I also found that sometimes, just sometimes, the game lacked in responsiveness when making a jump. I ran across a similar issue back in my PC review many months ago so I presume, as I suggested then, that this could be that the frames of animation mean you need to hit jump at the correct moment to break the flow. It wasn’t a major irritant but in a game that lives and dies by split-second reactions this was a little annoying.
The game as adapted to life on the PS Vita very well – in fact I enjoyed it far more in this portable guise than I even did on the PC – or would do on a home console version. The ability to take the device off with you and take a few runs at a level to better a friends score or collect a hidden retro Commander Video game cartridge (unlocking a small pixelated bonus level) made the game even more essential – it’s the quintessential portable title.
Bit Trip Runner 2 is, on again, a triumph of a game lending itself to the portable Vita format beautifully – it feels like the platform it was meant for. The power of an independent studio left to iterate on a simple idea and push it towards perfection. Issues can be found in a steep difficulty later in the game (seriously your movements will be a blur to onlookers as you traverse later levels!) that can lead to frustration at times. There were also instances where animation seemed to take priority of movement leading to untimely faults and frustrating checkpoint restarts. These might detract from your enjoyment but they really shouldn’t!
Bit Trip Runner 2’ s graphical design, cartoonish whimsy, musical prowess and smart design all combine to offer an experience that is a joy to play from start to finish. Bit Trip Runner 2 is a symphonic sensation and with it being one of the better PS Vita titles you really have no excuse not to buy it!