Review: Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
It has been close to two years since we first heard about CommanderVideo making his way to PSN. I played the game at PAX East last year and since then, my internal hype meter had been steadily rising. Two weeks ago, at the exact moment when my meter was reaching terminal hyposity, the wait was finally over when Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien released. I’ve been playing it ever since, trying to absorb as much of it as possible before sitting down to write this review. I think I can provide a fairly objective statement regarding Runner2 (for you TLDR folks, this is where you’re going to want to pay attention): Stunning Feat.
I should preface this review by writing that this is my first full-length Bit.Trip adventure. I played through all of the Bit-Trip mini-game in Retro City Rampage, but besides for that I have only enviously watched videos of others playing through different games of the saga. The first and perhaps most impressive attribute of the game that I noticed was its polished presentation. From the minute you boot up Runner2, you’re met with a series of entertaining, humorous elements that blend together perfectly. After a brief, nonsensical commercial, the first voice you hear is that of the narrator, who exclaims, “I’m Charles Martinet, and now it’s time for Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2, Future Legend of Rhythm Alien!” It’s as if every time you start the game, you’re playing another episode in a CommanderVideo TV/Game series. The entire game is presented in this surrealistic, stream-of-conscious fashion that must have taken a ton of time to get just right. Menu selection buttons jump along with the background music, every button press provides a bleep or a bloop, and the loading screens provide funny quips to fill the brief voids between playing. It is this type of presentation that makes the game feel like a complete package. In addition to its good looks, Runner2 boasts some good… gameplays.
This is a rhythm runner game, which means that you’re running from left to right at a constant speed (most of the time), jumping, sliding, bouncing, blocking, dancing, and loop-de-looping along with the background music. You perform these feats using simple button presses, and the point is to collect all of the gold and mode+ icons in each level. Again, each in-game button press adds a little to the song, which provides a rather immersive experience. There are five different worlds, each with fifteen stages (including a boss) that are presented in a Super Mario World-esque overworld map. It may be difficult to do while playing, but each level has a ton of neat things to spot in the scrolling background. Certain levels have branching paths delineated by colored arrows. Red arrows lead you to a more difficult path while green arrows lead to an easier path. Blue arrows show up here and there, showing you the way to alternate exits which unlock secret levels in the overworld map. There are also 40 hidden treasure chests, 6 unlockable (ridiculous) characters, and 25 retro challenges to be sniffed out within levels. Treasure chests unlock new costumes for your characters, and the retro challenges provide a bit of nostalgic Runner action. There’s also a Key Vault level in each world, which unlocks keys that can be found in other levels throughout the world. All in all, there’s a ton to do, and what makes the whole package sweeter is how user-friendly the game is.
Runner2 is a game that can be played by most anyone. There are three difficulties: Rather Easy, Just Right, and Quite Hard. Different difficulties alter the number of enemies/obstacles within a level. Getting hit or running into an enemy sends you back to the start of the level. However, all of the levels include at least one checkpoint to ease the frustration of getting hit later on. Collecting all of the gold and mode+ icons in a level will earn you a perfect in that level, marked by an exclamation point on the overworld map. Getting a perfect also grants you the opportunity to shoot CommanderVideo (or whatever character you’re playing as) from a cannon into a giant target. Hitting the bulls-eye earns you a perfect+ for the level. In short, this system boils down to extra large teacup full of replayability. Each level can be played a minimum of three times to achieve a perfect+ on each difficulty. Odds are you’ll miss a gold bar or bulls-eye here and there, which means if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to go back to fully complete certain levels. There are also online leaderboards for overall worlds and each level within the worlds. I didn’t take part in much score-chasing my first time through, but when I go back to play the game on Rather Hard, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to top a few levels.
After a fifteen-month adventure through this review, I must, unfortunately, give my concluding remarks. Runner2 provides a massive amount of game for casual players and hardcore perfectionists alike. Its incredible sound design (the pause button music and retro challenge zoom sound effect are my favorites) and overall presentation provide a delightful experience from start to finish. Besides for the 75 multi-tiered, treasure-bearing levels, there are 90 in-game achievements to earn. I beat the game in just under 7 hours, skipping a handful of levels in order to write this review in a somewhat timely manner. My only reservations with the game are with the bosses, which sometimes felt like more trial-and-error than skill-based running. Overall, though, I completely recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a good music/rhythm game. Its difficulty curve is shallow enough to invite most gamers, but when it lets go of your hand later on, only the most lazerly focused, quick-fingered individuals will prevail.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Sound design
- Branching paths
- Hidden treasures
- Difficulty curve
What I Dislike:
- A couple of the bosses = trail-and-error