Review: The BIT.TRIP – The Complete Original Series (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3 *TBD
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: The BIT.TRIP – The Complete Original Series
Format: PlayStation Network Download (684 MB)
Release Date: December 5, 2015
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Developer: Gaijin Games
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E
The BIT.TRIP – The Complete Original Series is also available on PlayStation 3 (Release date TBD) and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The BIT.TRIP is a poorly punctuated collection of six titles that were similarly improperly punctuated: BIT.TRIP BEAT, BIT.TRIP CORE, BIT.TRIP VOID, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, BIT.TRIP FATE and BIT.TRIP FLUX. The games all share similarities in graphic styles and have some vague overarching storyline centered around Commander Video and his pals, but each features wildly different gameplay.

One way the gameplay is similar, though, in that the it often has a rhythmic element where playing helps create the game’s music. Also, the games have a stylistic similarity in how the player’s performance is shown.

Doing well will bump the player up through different levels, which changes how the background music sounds. Doing poorly, will drop the player through levels until they reach the Nether, at which point all background music is muted and the graphics switch to a simplistic version of the game.

… stuck using motion controls to control the paddle …
BEAT and FLUX are the only similar games and both are Pong-ish, in the sense that the player controls a paddle that is used to block incoming balls. However, rather than being a versus game, the balls arrive in a set pattern. This pattern, when hit correctly, adds to the background music with the different types of balls giving different sounds.

Different types of balls also have different movement patterns. Some will bounce off the walls normally, like in Pong or Breakout, while others might oscillate or start and stop or any number of other patterns.

Bit.Trip BeatBit.Trip Flux

Left: BIT.TRIP BEAT, Right: BIT.TRIP FLUX

These two games are pretty fun on their own, at least on the PC where I played BIT.TRIP BEAT originally. The PlayStation version is unfortunately stuck using motion controls to control the paddle, which I found to be an exercise in tedium. It is an unfamiliar way to control a game like that and I found myself getting upset before I could adapt. An option to control the game another way would have been nice.

BIT.TRIP CORE shares an aspect of BEAT’s gameplay in that the objective is to block balls that are scrolling across the screen. However in this game, rather than using a paddle to block the balls, the player has to fire a laser at them. Holding up, down, left, or right fires a laser from a cross icon in the center. Since the balls can travel in any direction and some don’t even travel in a straight line, this is probably the most chaotic game in the collection.

BIT.TRIP VOID is an odd game. The player has control of a black circle they can move around the screen. Black and white dots scroll across the screen, like in the previous games, and the player must maneuver the circle to hit the black dots while avoiding the white ones.

… a difficulty befitting their retro nature …
Gathering black dots increases the player’s circle’s size and increases a combo meter, while hitting a white one will cancel the combo and reset the size. The circle’s size can also reset by hitting a button.

The next game in the collection is BIT.TRIP RUNNER, an auto-runner where the player controls Commander Video. An auto-runner is like a platformer but one where the character automatically runs while the player has to time the character’s actions to avoid obstacles.

In this case the actions include jumping, sliding, kicking or bouncing. There are also gold bars to collect and getting all of them on a stage gives the player a shot at a much harder bonus stage.

THE BIT.TRIP_20151213172515THE BIT.TRIP_20151219172159

Left: BIT.TRIP CORE, Right: BIT.TRIP VOID

The final game is BIT.TRIP FATE, which plays a lot like a sidescrolling shoot ‘em up (SHMUP). The player controls Commander Video with one analog stick while using the other to shoot in any direction to take down enemies. However, Commander Video cannot move in any direction and is confined to a track.

This adds an extra layer of difficulty in that the player has to keep in mind where the track will move when trying to dodge enemy bullets. Some of Commander Video’s friends also make an appearance in this game as collectable powerups which change the pattern of his attack bullets.

Almost all of the games are split up into three levels (RUNNER has many more levels but each is grouped into one of three stages, FATE has six stages but in groups of two) and all of the games ramp up to a difficulty befitting their retro nature. So while each game is generally pretty short, getting through them may take several attempts – and even more to go for the elusive perfect play trophy.

… the collection holds together with that super retro aesthetic …
Though the games have relatively simple gameplay, they are well designed and challenging which I’m sure will give them a certain appeal to many gamers. The biggest misstep is the control scheme for BEAT and FLUX but outside of that I enjoyed most of the package.

Visuals:
The games all use a very retro graphics style. Like there’s “retro indie game” and then there’s The BIT.TRIP. Most of the games use only large pixels for the gameplay, with big blocky ‘balls’ like one might see on a very old Pong machine.

The later games in the series do have more updated graphics though such as 3D rendered enemies in FATE or stages in RUNNER. Overall though, the collection holds together with that super retro aesthetic.

THE BIT.TRIP_20151210201153THE BIT.TRIP_20151211225356

Left: BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Right: BIT.TRIP FATE

Audio:
Like the graphics, the music is also very retro, consisting of chiptune music and bloops and bleeps for sound effects. As previously mentioned though, almost all of the games (FATE being a little bit of an outlier) use the sound effects to tie into the music. So hitting all the balls in BEAT, for example, will add another layer to the melody of the music.

Doing well also ranks the player up in class, and this is accompanied by additional musical flourishes. Doing poorly and going down in class removes them again to the point where going into the Nether will remove all background music entirely.

Online/Multiplayer:
Leaderboards are the only online component. Each game has a leaderboard which is split up by difficulty and level.

… a solid collection of games …
Conclusion:
Don’t let the simple graphics and simple gameplay of The BIT.TRIP fool you. Almost all of these games can get very tough, even on the easy difficulty setting. This collection feels like a callback to the days of the quarter-munching arcade cabinets. The rhythmic elements really complement the games and they’re one of my favorite aspects of the collection.

All that said though, the simplistic gameplay does mean that it’s easy to get bored with each game individually before too long. Fortunately then, the games in the collection are all pretty varied in gameplay so it’s pretty easy to curb that boredom by just switching to a different game.

The control scheme for two of the games was the biggest sticking point overall for me but it didn’t keep me from enjoying my time with The BIT.TRIP. There wasn’t a standout moment to push the collection too high in my book but for the price tag, this is a solid collection of games.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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