BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, XBox 360 (reviewed), Wii U, PC
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: $14.99 – Buy Now
In a day and age where rhythm games, as this generation has known them, are on the decline, the development team at Gaijin Games are looking to shake things up a little bit. Gone are the days of plastic guitars and drums sets. Instead, BIT.TRIP Presents…Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien looks to rekindle the days when rhythm games made their home on a controller. Does Runner2 stay in step with the days of glory or has it lost that lovin’ feeling? Let’s find out.
As narrator Charles Martinet recounts to the players, Commander Video finds himself in a precarious situation. He and his compatriots, hot on the heels of a maniacal enemy known as Timbletot, find themselves in an outer layer of the world known as the “Hypersphere.” Suddenly they’re struck by something known as a “nefarious un-fusion beam”. Being the hero, Commander Video shields his teammates from the blast. As a consequence for being struck by the beam, he is taken through a vortex and into a location between “the apex of light and matter.” He must find his way out of this vortex and back to his friends.
Runner2‘s basic gameplay mechanics are simple and straightforward. That’s a big part of what makes it such a joy to play. Though you start with only the lowly jump mechanic, you’ll soon be introduced to more and more maneuvers until your repertoire is full ways to avoid danger and make beautiful music.
The player will have to jump, slide, kick, block, dodge, and more in order to navigate through each stage, which is filled with scattered gold bars for you to recover. Collect all of the gold bars in a level and you’ll receive a “Perfect” rating and the opportunity to shoot yourself from a cannon for some bonus points. The controls are immaculate, and while you may take a shot or two from an enemy, you’ll never feel like the controls were to blame.
In Runner2 there are 5 worlds, each containing 25 stages. Many have multiple paths and exits for you to explore. Each world also has a boss stage, which tends to manipulate the game mechanics in interesting ways, like changing your perspective or the direction you’re running. They’re a genuinely interesting break from the norm and keep things paced well.
As you play through the game, many of the hidden paths will lead to collectible items and retro-styled levels. These colletibles will require more time and effort, but you’ll be rewarded with extra costumes for the characters you can control. When the game begins, you’ll have access to Commander Video and Commandgirl Video, with the potential to unlock six more throughout the game. The characters and their costumes offer something different to look at as you play but they’re ultimately nothing more than cosmetic alterations and play no differently. Still, it’s fun and challenging to collect them all and seeing the new costumes in motion provides a great sense of achievement for your hard work.
Runner2 has three different difficulty settings. “Just Right” provides a good deal of challenge at times without ever feeling overbearing. “Quite Easy” is great for younger or inexperienced audiences, removing many of the obstacles and giving you a chance to become familiar with the game. “Rather Hard” requires a serious bit of willpower, but is arguably the most rewarding as allows for higher scores and more obstacles to handle. They’re also changeable between levels with the touch of a button, so you’ll never feel like you can’t progress due to difficulty.
Runner2 is one of the most visually interesting games released in quite a while. Parts of it feel almost serene, but others feel like you’re running through an abstract cubist painting. They can really play tricks with your eyes at times, but they never distract from the mission at hand or wear out their welcome, and that’s a good thing.
Character designs are bizarre bordering on weird. On top of the classic Commander Video, you can unlock a man with a hamburger for a head, a reverse merman (with parts that appear to need censoring), and more. It keeps things interesting, even though it may make you a bit uncomfortable.
More than the visuals, the audio design is so well enmeshed with the game, you’ll often forget it could be considered apart from the gameplay experience. The folks at Gaijin have done a masterful job incorporating gameplay with sound design.
Every action taken in the game is tied directly to a sound bite that’s part of the song for each level. This is a huge factor in what makes the feedback loop between player and game so strong. The more obstacles you have to deal with, the sweeter your music will be. It’s satisfying not only from a gameplay perspective, but in what must be the equivalent of a chemical high, achieved through aural means. Running a difficult level flawlessly with the volume turned up is an experience that borders on sublime.
BIT.TRIP Presents…Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a game that does so many things right, it’s hard to criticize. The visual design is a bit eccentric, but with flawless controls, tight gameplay, addicting sound design, and plenty of content to keep you coming back, anyone can have a marvelous time sitting down with this game for a few hours and losing themselves to the rhythm.
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