Review by drussta
A fantastic blast back to a time when simplicity made a game's genius
I'll start with this section as it's by far the most important section of the review for this game. As with every other aspect of this game, and all the other entries in the bit.trip series, the beauty is in it's simplicity, and the gameplay is no exception. What is essentially a straight 2d platformer, Runner is made that little bit more interesting by the character uncontrollably running forwards forever. On a very basic level all you have to do is jump. What I love about this idea is that it's like playing a mario bros title but it forces you to play a speed run like the pros, and nothing feels better than flawlessly skimming through a complex maze of dangers. As the game progresses you have to perform a variety of moves to avoid hitting various obstacles. Whether it be sliding under a worm robot, kicking through a growth of crystals or blocking giant pixels all the moves are very well implemented and feel natural to perform given the button layout.
This is a points based game, although it shouldn't be. Collect all the gold and all the power ups to get maximum points. I thought the point of points is to always be able to get more points. Once you get all the gold and power ups in a level you can't get any more points, I think you should just see your amount of gold and power ups than having a seemingly arbitrary points system. It's not like you can run faster to improve you time there by increasing your points.
One mistake and you're out, however, you have infinite lives and are taken straight back to the beginning of the level. This makes for a fairly repetitive gameplay, particularly if you are struggling with a difficult point of a level, but because you don't have to wait or worry about lives it doesn't seem to get too frustrating.
I found there to be a fairly gradual learning curve. At first you find yourself struggling to jump and kick at the same time, but you soon find yourself performing sequences of ridiculously quick and varied moves without even thing about it!
Like all the other games in the series, everything runs with the tempo of the music, but personally I don't consider a game a "rhythm" or "music" game if you can play it on mute, which you can do with all the bit.trip games. Like the rest, it seems the music is generated from the gameplay and not the other way around. Runner is all about almost pixel perfect timing, you have to be accurate and quick, but the levels have been extremely well thought out and are very innovative to keep the gameplay extremely fun and never a chore.
The music and sounds are absolutely brilliantly created. It's new but gives you that nostalgic feeling like listening to snes f-zero or sim city. My only complaint is that sometimes there seems to be too many sounds being triggered at the same time and they get a little distorted, particularly when you have picked up a few power ups. But this doesn't affect my enjoyment of the fantastic electronic sound scapes.
Simple menu system and layout for a simple game. Straight to the point and full of beautifully crafted retro goodness.
A new look for the series. There are now full colour environments which are built from simple retro elements but in 3 dimensions. The environments range from futuristic off-world space invader lands with giant robots to running through the streets and sewers of urban city scapes. Fits perfectly into the Runner's universe and even includes some fan provided graffiti!
If you're into getting perfect score then go for it, but it's going to be tough... You have to replay enough levels just to get through it. Once through will probably be enough for some, but I imagine most will keep coming back from time to time just to dip in and out, or to quickly show a friend how cool it is.
REPLAY VALUE: 7/10
Two games that have similar gameplay to Runner are Vib Ribbon (PSX) and Tomena Sanner (Wii Ware). Runner blows both of these out of the water. Vib Ribbon, although extremely innovative for the time, was simply too difficult, it was hard to remember obscure button combinations for unconnected shapes for obstacles. And tomena sanner is just a big joke really, fun but a bit of a game they just slapped together in a week without really thinking about it. Runner is a solid, extremely fun and addictive game with a strong underlying retro style concept, that is perpetuated throughout every facet. I would have liked a bit more depth to the story, perhaps in a similar vein of world of goo or braid, but I guess that's not what retro's about...
It's totally cool dude, get it and you'll see.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Bit.Trip Runner (EU, 05/14/10)
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