Hard to believe that it’s already been some 13 years since CommanderVideo made a splash on WiiWare with the fourth BIT.TRIP entry, BIT.TRIP RUNNER. A lot has happened since, including the launch of no less than two… wait. No, three sequels, except BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is a remake of the original, complete with a fully functional built-in level editor. Excited yet? Well, you should be!
Now, unlike other recent remakes that really mix things up and make sweeping changes to the overall experience – like Final Fantasy VII Remake – BIT. TRIP RERUNNER is probably more akin to a remix than a remake in the traditional sense. The graphics have been overhauled significantly and it now sports a look much closer to that of the second entry, BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, which gel quite nicely with other noticeable changes and additions, like the modified levels and mechanics.
In other words, far from everything is new or even changed to a significant degree in this auto-runner. There are still three worlds to play through, each culminating with a boss battle, and despite the increased visual fidelity, the original art style is still visible – in a good way. That also goes for the gameplay aspect, for while more than a few things have in fact been added, I wouldn’t say anything was lost or even diminished in the process.
CommanderVideo might have a much-expanded move set in this entry, each of which I believe is from the original trilogy, and unlike in those, every last one is available from the get-go in BIT.TRIP RERUNNER. But since only plain old jumping is used in the first level, the in-game tutorial isn’t likely to overwhelm anyone; if something isn’t introduced with a large billboard at the beginning of a level, it isn’t needed (yet). Would it have benefited anyone to instead lock glide, kick, block, absorb, blast, and slide until the player needs to make use of each? Perhaps, although at worst, I’d say it’s a tiny inconvenience.
Yes, I know, and having just finished the game (and then some) prior to writing this review, I’m inclined to agree: that is a lot of moves to keep track of in a playspace where colliding with any and all obstacles will send you back to the last checkpoint – provided you haven’t disabled them to boost your score, that is. Oh, did I forget to mention how this take on CommanderVideo’s initial jog actually has checkpoints? Well, it does, and as someone not overly adept at 2D platformers, I am all for it. Huge fan. Much appreciated, and so on.
Those looking to climb the leaderboard(s) won’t have any use for them, however, as your score multiplier is negatively affected if checkpoints are enabled. That also goes for another accessibility feature: Stair Assist, an ease-of-use inclusion to automate most stair climbing in BIT.TRIP RERUNNER. Repeatedly pressing the jump button to ascend a ‘staircase’ is far from the most challenging aspect of the game, although I can definitely still see a use for it; even if it does reduce that ever-important score multiplier.
Given the number of moves at CommanderVideo’s disposal, some – myself included – are bound to fancy an in-game toggle to decrease the difficulty, if only slightly. Meanwhile, the opposite most certainly also holds true, as those looking for a genuine challenge get to enjoy a 200%(!) score multiplier… provided they’re able to handle Obstacle Density set to “High !!!”. Despite being almost convinced that would be too much for me to handle, I opted to start on that. How did it go? Well, let’s just say I’m glad completing the game on “Low !” enables you to unlock absolutely everything, still. But I’m getting way ahead of myself, so… about those moves; all six of them (seven if you include ‘jump’).
As previously mentioned, BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is an auto-runner, meaning you have no say in when CommanderVideo moves or in which direction. You do have some ways to interact with the protagonist though, like, say, by holding down a button to put up a shield and block incoming green cubes or perform a baseball slide to avoid obstacles with just enough of a gap underneath them to, well, slide past safely. Adding to that, holding down yet another button enables the commander to blast blue cubes with laser beams, as well as something a bit simpler: keeping the jump button pressed to slow CommanderVideo’s descent. It might sound like a lot to keep track of, and that’s because… well, it kind of is. Oh, and those I mentioned just now are not even all the tools at your disposal either.
Off the top of my head, BIT. TRIP RUNNER, by comparison, only allowed CommanderVideo to jump and slide. That’s it. Nothing fancy, and yet it was not only challenging but also an absolute joy. With all the additional moves available in this version, it wouldn’t make sense to simply feature the original levels with a fresh coat of paint, courtesy of Unreal Engine 5. So they all got a bit of an overhaul; some more than others, but every last one has seen at least a few changes and/or new – and in some cases, additional – obstacles.
My only potential complaint, which is more of a nitpick than anything else, regarding the level design is that the difficulty feels ever so slightly uneven. Sometimes, from one level to the next, it can change drastically in one direction or the other. As for whether this is a remnant of the original, given that the levels featured here are after all based on those, I do not know. I may be a huge fan of the BIT.TRIP RUNNER franchise, but I am still far from an absolute expert, and as such, unable to draw super-detailed, specific comparisons between this and the original in that regard.
I will say this though: there were moments, and thankfully nothing more, when I felt the layout of a level could have been… better. It can be difficult to walk the line between challenging and unfair when plopping down the building blocks that make out the landscape of each level CommanderVideo needs to traverse in order to progress when so many variables (including his arsenal of moves) need to be taken into account. I’m definitely not blind to that fact, and honestly, even with fewer variables in the mix I’d wager someone out there will still be able to point at section x of level y and claim that z might have worked better.
Whether they’d be right or wrong is anyone’s guess. I’m not even entirely convinced those moments when I experienced mild frustration upon failing to surpass an obstacle weren’t simply a lack of skill on my behalf. I was back to having an absolute blast moments later, rockin’ along to the groovy remixes of classic BIT.TRIP RUNNER tunes despite CommanderVideo flying through the air face-first into a fiery ball of death, so it didn’t exactly detract from my fun. In other words, take it with a grain of salt, and on top of that, it really is the only thing that comes even close to me having something negative to say about BIT.TRIP RERUNNER.
With that out of the way, how about some more genuine praise? Like… let’s see… ah, the boss battles! See, after surviving the onslaught of eleven levels – or challenges, as they’re called here – CommanderVideo gets to square off in a fancy boss battle of sorts, and man, were these ever fun! Three in total, meaning for those keeping score at home, there are a grand total of thirty-six challenges to conquer before all is said and done. At which point there’s actually still more to do, more to play, and the best part? It’s all really good. Just like the boss battles. Oh, I already mentioned that. Right.
Anyway, while these have been tweaked from their original counterparts, BIT.TRIP RUNNER fans are bound to feel a sense of familiarity still, perhaps even nostalgia. For me, it was a bit of both, mixed with the fun of putting CommanderVideo through the ropes, often using his various moves in ways unique to each of those encounters. Nothing is explicitly explained to the player either prior to or during these either. Everything you need to know has already been taught, as without making use of the tools required to beat them, well, you wouldn’t have made it this far in the first place. Think ever so slightly outside the box and you’ll get it. I did. Eventually. One of them did leave me stumped for a bit though.
Having said all that, you’d think we might be nearing the end, and that this is the part in which I conclude my review to publish it so the masses can enjoy my super wordy take on this great remake/remix. But you’d be wrong. Or did you think I would simply mention the level editor near the beginning and then never again? Ha! As if. Its inclusion is a big part of why I was super excited at the prospect of getting a review key (much appreciated, by the way), after all. Where to begin, though?
Actually, first, I want to at least make a note of the amazing extras in BIT.TRIP RERUNNER, all of which I believe can be unlocked upon completing the game on any of its three difficulties. These range from comics and concept art to various documents and fan art. Oh, but that’s not even the best stuff. No, that one definitely goes to the bonus levels! RUNNER, BEAT, CORE, VOID, FATE, FLUX, Runner2, and even Runner3, are all present and accounted for. One in particular might even feature more than just a select few levels. I’m sure you can guess which, and it is such an awesome inclusion.
Okay. Now it’s actually time for a glance at the level editor; which is also an awesome inclusion, and surprisingly easy to use. It kind of reminds me of Super Mario Maker, for some reason. Not sure why. Anyway, there’s a lovely tutorial to ensure even those entirely inexperienced in the fine art that is 2D level-making are off to a good start. Oh, one thing of particular importance: levels in the game were all made using this very tool (save for, perhaps, the boss battles)!
While you are slightly restricted – what with everything revolving around pre-made tiles, fixed coordinates, and such – there’s still plenty of room for unleashing some seriously creative levels. Might take a bit of playtesting, but you’ll need to cross the finish line on your creation before the game will let you share it with the rest of the world, anyway.
Everything from the spring pads to various terrain configurations are available from the get-go. No grind to unlock features or anything of the sort. So, provided you can work within the limitations of the editor, the potential is there immediately. Even early examples from other players, such as those I sampled after the credits rolled, were promising, and who knows, Choice Provisions might have something interesting planned to further expand RUNNER MAKER (oddly fitting name). If not, well, what’s there is really good.
That goes for the core experience too, and across all three Obstacle Density settings, even though I’m nowhere near skilled enough to get far on High !!!. But it’s there for those seeking a challenge, and despite spending most of my time with BIT.TRIP RERUNNER on Low!, where far fewer objects need to be leapt over, kicked, blocked, absorbed or blasted, I still have an absolute blast. Especially with the… blast move. (This is where you applaud my clever writing. Go ahead.)
But seriously, BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is absolutely worth picking up. Even if you never end up creating anything with RUNNER MAKER, there is still a lot of content to sift through – especially if you’re a fan of the older BIT.TRIP games – and I dare say all of it is rather lovely. Now, off you go, have fun with CommanderVideo!