Review: BIT.TRIP presents… Runner 2: Future Legend Of Rhythm Alien (PS3)

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Title: BIT.TRIP presents… Runner 2: Future Legend Of Rhythm Alien
Format:
PlayStation Network Download (769 MB)
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Gaijin Games
Price: $14.99 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is also available on Wii U, Xbox Live Arcade and PC.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.

Gameplay:
The object is to run from left to right collecting piles of gold, score multipliers and keys which unlock chests filled with goodies like costumes and alternate characters. In order to accomplish these tasks one must avoid, destroy or block obstacles. The moves available to the player are jump, slide, kick, block, bounce, launch and hang. Also sometimes don’t forget to dance. Clues as to the timing of these actions are in the background music which is 8-bit inspired. Lives are unlimited but check-points can be a long way behind you considering you have the choice to jump over the check-points to get a higher score.

The player begins Runner 2 as Commander Video running from left to right, using the X button to jump up platforms, to jump up to collect gold and multipliers or to leap over empty spaces. The longer the button is held the farther the jump. This is the most basic move in the game. Eventually other actions are added to this simple jump. Moving obstacles are added to the basic platform and gold/multiplier jumps along with alternate pathways either up via launch or down via slide. The more difficult the path one takes the more likely it is to contain a chest with costumes and unlockable playable characters like Uncle Dill, a pickle man.

There are five different artistic “worlds” in the game. Each is filled with about 20 stages not including the surprise 8-bit levels. The player comes across key levels before he or she has unlocked the path which makes the keys useful. That means built-in replay because you will want to go back to those key levels to unlock those locks. Additionally there are score-chase rewards for perfecting a run and also for getting a bulls-eye bonus at the end of each perfect run. And TROPHIES, YO for doing so!

The complexity just grows, and grows. By and by, even in the game’s “Quite Easy” mode, it’s possible to feel like someone juggling live kittens. Or more appropriately for the gaming milieu, to feel like someone playing the board game Operation while someone else is throwing live kittens at them.

The game does not share its secrets easily. Those half-invisible keys needed to unlock the alternate areas only become useful when you’ve stumbled upon how to make them corporeal. That’s if you know what you did that did it. I know. You can Google if you need to but I am not going to spoil this for you. If the devs wanted it to be obvious or easier they would have instructed the player in some obvious way. Like putting tips on their website. Hey, wait a minute!

Runner 2 also incorporates in-game accomplishments to unlock so-called Rewards. There are a lot of these milestones to cross, however the effect of doing so is like getting a kiss from your Aunt Sally. You’re fine with the fact she loves you but you aren’t going to get her face tattooed across your chest. These Rewards unlock nothing and since the game already tracks statistics, their effect on player morale is arguably negligible. The game does have 16 trophies but no platinum. Considering The Walking Dead rewarded a platinum for merely playing at all, Runner 2 with its difficulty and required skill-set should deliver one as well.

Visuals:
BIT.TRIP is known for 8-bit graphics. Runner 2 is Gaijin’s first BIT.TRIP game to principally use current gen graphics for the majority of the gameplay. Take heart though BIT.TRIP fans! There are hidden 8-bit levels to enjoy as well.

Unfortunately the game design includes some camera angles which can result in a few cheap deaths. Sometimes the camera view swings to a slightly lower angle as the player climbs higher platforms. It is very cinematic. And with everything else going on it momentarily effectively and unexpectedly ratchets up the difficulty to implausible. You will probably die there and go back to your check-point. Maybe more than once.

Several times after kicking and breaking an obstacle, pieces of said obstacle flew in direct conflict with the camera blocking the view of the Commander at the precise moment needed to jump. These little gaffs would probably not be such a big deal if they happened nearer a check-point or if they didn’t feel like a fat family member crossing in front of the TV at precisely the wrong time.

Audio:
8-bit inspired music plays throughout the game. This is a rhythm game as well as platformer. The odd thing is that the melodies are syncopated in such a way that on a first attempt they are pretty meaningless. The music won’t help until you’ve failed a run enough times to learn the tune. When you’ve done that then you can use the playing of the tune to guide you during difficult areas. If you can hear the music over your own sobs.

Online/Multiplayer:
There is no online play here. Just leaderboards. But when you’re connected to the PlayStation Network while playing, you see your friends’ high scores at the start of each stage. Highly effective for score chasing and-there-goes-Glenn-to-the-PSN-store-to-download-the-game-now.

Conclusion:
I loved and hated this game. There is nothing like getting to the end of a stage to discover that even though your hands and feet sweated through your socks and driving gloves you’ve made a perfect run! Now shoot yourself out of the cannon for a bulls-eye! Then there are times when all the sweaty pit-stains in the world will not change the fact that it just took you 20 minutes to run 10 feet. Well, the last ten feet. But you had to go back 220 feet to make that final 10 correctly.

But I know! I get it! It is 8-bit-ish. It harkens back to the arcade game quarter-eating stand-up machines in malls all over America. It should be hard. It should be fun. It is hard and fun.

The idea that there is a story here is just like the cake. It’s a lie. Mass Effect has a story. Runner 2 does not despite anyone’s cries to the contrary. They try and they pretend there is some sort of story. There is no story. Stop it. You know I’m right.

For some of you in PSNation-land there may not be a platformer this year with more pure challenge requiring so much stamina and masochism. For you I am excite. For others of you who like a little less stress in your stress-relieving game play, Runner 2 could be like getting home from work, putting up your feet and digging a ditch.

My final caveat is that for the current market and with no interactive online play of any kind the price seems about five bucks too high. But what can you get for five bucks in 2013 anyway?

Score:
8.5

 

 

 

Written by Keith Dunn

Keith Dunn

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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