Looking back at WiiWare, Nintendo’s first attempt at an online marketplace, it’s pretty clear that there was not a ton of standout software. However, in the end, there was ultimately an entire franchise that rose to the top, Gaijin Games’ “BIT.TRIP” series. The six games that were released under the “BIT.TRIP” moniker (Beat, Core, Void, Runner, Fate, and Flux) set the standard for what great downloadable games on a Nintendo platform could be. Their retro-inspired art style and unforgiving difficulty helped them carve a niche out on WiiWare in a way that no other game, much less franchise, could touch. Now, two years after the last game in the series was released, Gaijin Games have returned with a new adventure for Commander Video, “BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien,” and this time he’s going HD and multiplatform.
In “Runner 2″ Commander Video returns for another round of dashing through branching courses, collecting as much gold along the way as possible. This time around, our hero has been transported to a mysterious land where he and some of his unlockable friends, have to run, jump, and slide their way to the end of some of the most challenging platformer levels since the original “Runner.”
The core concept of the original game (running) has returned in this sequel, but this time around Commander Video has some new obstacles to deal with. In addition to his jumps and kicks the Commander will need to clear larger gaps, grind some rails, and even learn to speed by upside down as he loop-d-loops his way to the finish line. Gaijin Games made use of the additional controller buttons by giving Video more abilities which were mapped to the different directions of both the left and right sticks, and as well as by adding a dance button (for extra points) on the right trigger. In short, the very simple gameplay from the original is built upon, creating a much more complex outing, so much so that it might push the limits for some of the more causal gamers out there.
One of the defining features of the first set of “BIT.TRIP” games was the fact that they were so punishingly difficult, and “Runner 2″ is no different. With the upgrades to the controls and the gameplay, this time around Commander Video looks more like a parkour runner whizzing through each of the levels. Fortunately, Gaijin have taken mercy on us, and included optional mid-level checkpoints so that you don’t have to reset all the way back to the beginning of the level when you “bonk out” (run into something and suffer from a one-hit kill). In addition to that, each of the levels features different difficulty options, and, aside from not having as many opportunities to score points, there’s no real penalty for completing a level on an easier setting, which helps to make the game a bit less frustrating.
In addition to their difficulty, the first six “BIT.TRIP” games had a very unique retro art-style about them that seemed to unify them, and evoked a strange level of nostalgia at the same time. “Runner 2″ leaves all of that in the past, and opts for way more bells and whistles this time around. For starters, there are the updated HD graphics, that make this new world pop all around Commander Video. There’s also a more fleshed out story that is narrated by the one-and-only Charles Martinet, and is seemingly done in the style of classic “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons. The result of these updates is a much more polished, entertaining, and less confusing game.
Overall, “Runner 2″ is a great addition to the BIT.TRIP franchise, and actually improves on what was the best game of the original Saga. This update manages to retain the same essence of what made the original great; the addictive gameplay that keeps you saying “just one more level” before you put down the controller. The game also heavies up on the content, including tons of unlockables (including updated versions of the much-loved retro-inspired bonus levels), and the encouragement to replay each of the levels at different difficulty settings, so there’s an abundance of content here that will keep you running for hours and hours. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to pick up, but will ultimately offer an enduring challenge, “Runner 2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien” is one of the best games out there to push you to your limits, and then, in turn, offer an overwhelming sense of satisfaction (as long as you can actually beat the level).