Bit. Trip Beat

I’m not exactly a fan of what modern technology has meant for video games most of the time. With improved hardware capabilities always came graphics that tried to push the boundaries between the virtual and reality, while at the same time not quite getting there yet. Sure, it can work out real nice and a couple of genres really lend themselves quite well to photo-realistic graphics, like sports or racing games. However, I’m not always interested in reproducing what I can find outside on my screen at home. If I’m sitting in front of a games console, I want to be entertained with something unique nobody ever has thought of. Not an easy task of course. But I’m always happy if there is this one game every once in a while that breaks the usual conventions and starts doing something different with the visual potential that is inherent to the medium.

One such game is Bit. Trip Beat for Wii developed by Gaijin Games. What it does is it plays with the video game’s own historic graphical conventions. The game is full of giant, blocky pixels reminiscent of Atari 2600 graphics, including hard to read fonts. It is an homage to the medium’s origins, and it happens to be a very good game as well, although be it a very hard one.

The gameplay can best be described as a mixture of Pong and some rhythm game. While it is probably possible to play the game without sound, the aural feedback is sometimes a quite essential part of the game. Holding the Wii remote sideways, you control a paddle which moves up and down the screen by tilting the remote towards or away from your body. This is a very intuitive and precise method (unlike a lot of more complex waggle-fest games for the Wii) and actually comes quite close in a way to operating an original Atari paddle controller. As you play, rectangular blocks of various colours come into the screen from the right side. All you have to do is bounce them back with your paddle.

Easier said than done – while it does start out pretty harmless, very soon you’ll be trying hard to keep up with the constant torrent of pixels bombarding your little paddle. The block colours all have different meanings – light blue blocks stop at some point on the screen before starting again, orange blocks bounce a couple of times in varying distances from your paddle and red ones make your paddle immobile for a second or two. All the time, a very fitting chiptune is playing in the background, and you make the beats by hitting a block. If you miss, one of the two bars of the screen is drained. When it runs out completely, you get another chance by playing the game in black and white – just like the original Pong – while filling up the other bar on the screen. If you fail this stage as well, it’s game over – no continues or anything (the game has only three levels anyway.)

On the other hand, if you manage to fill the other bar on the screen, you get to a mode that’s a bit more difficult than the black and white one. The visual effects increase, and it becomes harder to see what’s going on. However, if you fill the bar up yet again, you get a multiplier to increase your score. The trick basically lies in learning the levels by heart. It’s all about split-seconds movements you have to carry out with the remote. But in my opinion, everything works so well that you don’t get frustrated easily. It’s one of those “one more try before I quit”-games. And the decidedly retro, yet very abstract graphics and the awesome chiptune soundtrack make Bit. Trip Beat a game surely worth your money. Check out this link for some gameplay footage. By the way, the game is actually intended to be a series, revolving around a Commander Video (why does this whole thing remind me of Captain Low-Rez so much?) and a second game is already in the works called Bit. Trip Core. I hope it’s going to be as interesting as beat, but I guess even the best “new” concepts might get old fast. We’ll see.

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