‘Runner2’ fun overcomes gameplay frustrations

bittriprunner2The original “BIT.TRIP Runner,” released in 2010, is an interesting experimental fusion of rhythm and platformer games. It is a very compelling experience and has a fantastic art style. But like many other side-scrolling platformers today, it is frustratingly challenging.

A sequel has unexpectedly been released, marking the first time an individual entry in the Bit.Trip saga has gotten a sequel of its own. Those who disliked the original aren’t going to be swayed by this release. However, fans of the original will find plenty of content and a slightly easier learning curve.

For those who don’t know, “Runner2” is a platformer in which the main character, named Commander Video, is automatically running across the screen at a fast pace. It’s up to the player to make him jump, slide, kick and block obstacles so he can reach the goal safely. All of the obstacles and levels are designed around a rhythm, so listening to the soundtrack and timing jumps is of utmost importance. The result is an addicting, trance-like experience similar to other rhythm games like “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution.”

The focus on rhythm adds a unique challenge, and the difficulty increases as players progress. This adds an element of frustration because players are forced to listen to the same beats over and over again if they make a simple mistake.

What jumps out to fans of the original “Runner” is the new art direction of the sequel. The original game’s retro art style fit the simplistic, addicting gameplay. In contrast, this new art style, similar to newer platformers such as “New Super Mario Bros.,” is distracting and a bit too cartoony. The game appears more whimsical, and that’s not what the “Bit.Trip” series is all about.

The soundtrack, as fans of the original “Runner” should expect, is awesome. Each of the different worlds has a unique twist, but every tune has a techno beat that makes listening engaging, which is important because the music is integral to gameplay.

Overall, “Runner2” is as exciting and intriguing as its predecessor. Though the original game’s charming art direction is lost, the compelling gameplay not only remains but has been tightened, refined and made more accessible. For $15, fans of rhythm and platformer games alike will definitely get their money’s worth.

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Game: “BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Publisher: Gaijin Games

Developer: Gaijin Games

Platform: 360, PS3, Wii U, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux

Genre: Platformer/Rhythm

Rating: 4