First thing’s first: Bit.Trip.Runner might be my favourite downloadable game ever made. If you’ve ever played any of the Bit.Trip series, you’ll know it uses retro graphics and gameplay around rhythm and music with each action creating a beat. Developer Gaijin Games’ fourth entry the series, Bit.Trip.Runner, took a platformer and combined it with an endless runner-style experience with great retro graphics. It’s been featured in countless indie bundles and one of the more popular titles of the studio.
Now, they’ve made a sequel but it’s a Bit.Trip game no more. It’s now Bit.Trip presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien or Runner2 for short. Instead of taking the classic Bit.Trip look, they’ve added an entirely new cartoony look to the overall game. The way the game opens feels like you’re watching an episode of Animaniacs, complete with a wacky announcer. Gaijin hasn’t revealed who the announcer is but you’ll be surprised and fall in love with him.
Everything from Commander.Video to the overall world is in full 3D but still retains the classic 2D playstyle. You’ll run, jump, slide and kick but the Commander is fully formed now. He’s even adorned with wristbands and running shoes. I mean, Commander’s gotta run so why not run in style?
The gameplay returns with the same charm of the original. You’ll be dodging things with your set of moves but now the move set has greatly improved. Gaijin has added more combinations to make things a little harder this time around. Commander.Video could slide or jump but what about slide-jump? Yes, you’ll need to use that to get around some enemies that are together with only a little space between them. You might even need to slide and kick at the same time.
Other new additions include poles that you can ride on the top or bottom; boosts that’ll make you run even faster; and fans that will soar you to the top, similar to springs, but you don’t have to trigger them. A new optional move is where the Commander will dance. Keep in mind though, dancing will leave him open so it’s a risk for reward style move.
Even the pathways are crazier this time around. You’ll see a fork in the occasional level – one path normal and one path harder – with the harder ones granting more rewards which is another awesome addition to Runner2. You’ll even find keys in levels that’ll unlock new paths to explore with more rewards.
When you began Bit.Trip.Runner, all you really had was a menu and three worlds. Now you have a world map and level selections within each world. It’s becoming more like its platforming brethrens such as Super Mario World or Super Meat Boy. Some of the levels will even lead to alternate exits that you can access.
One of the only things you could collect in the original was gold, but now you can collect chests that’ll unlock new costumes for the Commander such as the Power Mitten (similar to Nintendo’s Power Glove) or Inverted colors for the Commander.
Not only just him though, but you’ll also unlock new characters. I can’t divulge all of them but some of the ones that’ve been revealed include Whetfart Cheeseburger, Uncle Dill, and ComanderGirl.Video. But that’s only scratching the surface. None of them have any unique powers like in Super Meat Boy other than cosmetic differences. Plus, a cheeseburger for a face, let that sink that in.
The world’s influence came from classic Mario games as Gaijin told me at PAX Prime. Some include a nice beach, a cloudy hilltop, an engrossing forest and the lava world. It’s gorgeous with really nice lively backgrounds and really neat comedic stores like Pipp’s Lips Ships Chips.
When you collect all the gold in a level in Bit.Trip.Runner, you’d unlock a retro bonus level that looked straight from an Atari 2600. They’re back but even better than before. To unlock one, you’ll have to find an old-school Famicom style cartridge in the level. It goes heavily with the theme as it looks straight out of an NES or SNES style similar to 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The music for those levels are done by Fez composer Disasterpeace and were made on an actual Famicom. After playing through them already, they’re becoming infectiously catchy.
All in all, Runner2 is looking to be a worthy sequel to an already amazing entry in the Bit.Trip series. If Bit.Trip.Runner was to the original Super Mario Bros, Runner2 is their Super Mario World. A foundation that they’ve only added more features and content to make it a wonderful platforming/runner experience that’s a favorite game of 2013 for me already.
Look forward to it in January on XBLA, PSN, PC/Mac via Steam, Wii U eShop and PlayStation Vita.