8 Overall Score

5 Excellent, 1 Decent game | Fantastic Soundtrack | Great throwback graphics

Brutal Difficulty | VOID can be frustrating | SAGA doesn't have the extra levels

BIT. TRIP SAGA and BIT. TRIP COMPLETE are collections of 6 smaller games, packed into a value-concious indie bundle, but instead of paying whatever you want and buying it on the PC, you’re paying $40, and playing it on the 3DS or the Wii. Because they’re variations on the same thing (And you can even buy them individually for $6-$8 on WiiWare) I’ll review them together, as I haven’t done it before. Back in 2009 the first of the 6 titles came out, BIT. TRIP BEAT. It was a musical spin on pong, which I’ll get to first.
BEAT is pong, done in the style of an Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 game, with a heaping helping of guitar-hero esque rhythm game tossed in. The basic premise of the game is extremely simple, as it is with all 6 titles. In this case you control a pong paddle on the left side of the screen with either the control pad/stylus, or the Wiimote, depending on what system you’re playing on. The stylus is the best choice by far, as it really allows the quickest and most accurate movement. I played the PC version as well and used a mouse, but I think the stylus is the best choice. Dots and bars come at you, timed with the music, and you need to hit them back. That’s it, but it gets complex quick. Dots come in waves, bouncing on the top and bottoms of the screen, doing their best to trip you up. And you will trip up and miss some, it’s inevitable. Like the games of that era, you learn by messing up. There was the occasional time that I cursed a dot for bouncing when I expected it not to and missed it, but the game isn’t ended if you miss one. When you miss several you drop down into a black and white version of the game that you’re playing, where the multi-layered soundtrack returns to the pong of old. If you get enough dots there, you’re back into it. If you do well enough you’ll build up to different levels, which don’t change the pattern of dots that you’re seeing, but add another layer to the music and more visual flair. It can get distracting the higher you get, but that’s part of the game, you’re getting more points, it’s sounding better but it’s harder. It’s a fantastic bit of classic gameplay, and really updates a classic in interesting ways. There are frustrating parts, but it’s mostly motivation to go back and try it again. There are even boss battles, where a large creature will throw parts of itself at you as you wear it down, which adds an interesting flair to the end of levels.

FLUX was the last game created, and is BEAT but better. Your paddle is now on the right side of the screen, the backgrounds are much more interesting, the music is better and the patterns switch up and there are many new tricks thrown at you. I won’t say much more about this, as it is very similar to BEAT, but is still excellent.

FATE is a completely different game, but with the cores of classic graphics, chiptune music and rhythm based gameplay. FATE plays as a side scrolling on-rails shoot-em-up. You (Commander Video) can move back and forth on a sine-wave type line as the screen scrolls, and you use your pointed/stylus to control a constant stream of bullets. Dodging streams of dots as you chip away at obstacles in your way while you rush forward to pick up health-bar powerups to upgrade your gun is fantastically simple, and simply fantastic. Occasionally you’ll have the chance to pick up a friend such as Super Meat Boy, that gives you a new weapon to blast away with for a limited period of time. Maxing out your weapon power and grabbing one of these guys made very short work of enemies, and had a nice feeling of invincibility for a short time, even though you aren’t. Both control systems work well, but again the stylus has an edge, just because of the slight lag inherent in Wiimote pointer controls. It was probably my favourite of all the games, just beating out a very close…

RUNNER is probably the one that you’ve seen images of, if you aren’t really familiar with the series. The iconic image is the black and white hero Commander Video with a rainbow streaming out of his back as he runs. Well, as he runs, jumps, kicks and slides, with the rainbow following along with him. It’s the closest to a real rhythm game, as you use the d-pad and buttons reacting to visual cues on the screen to the time of the music. If you see a ledge, you need to hit jump. If you see a tunnel, you need to slide. If you see a flying saucer, you need to jump. If you see purple crystals, you need to kick, etc. This one took some learning, and some muscle memory to react properly. More than once I cursed myself for hitting kick when I wanted jump, or slide when I wanted launch. Thankfully RUNNER is very kind to your failures, of which there will likely be many as you learn the levels. You are warped back to the beginning of the level, without even a break in the soundtrack and given a short count in you’re back to the races, never slowing down and never stopping. The risk-reward comes in getting the gold bars that are littered throughout the levels, get enough and you get a special Pitfall-esque bonus level that is harder, where you collect more gold! Who doesn’t love gold? RUNNER had my favourite music and visuals of the series, and because of that I think this one I prefer on the Wii. On a big screen and hooked up to a nice speaker system, it’s absolutely fantastic. With headphones it’s great on the 3DS, but it can’t beat the bigger screen in this case. Going the complete opposite way is VOID.

VOID takes all the colour and rhythm and (mostly) chucks it out the window. It’s a game all about risk and reward, and it takes a simple idea and makes it into quite an interesting game. You control a black ‘circle’. (Think of an Atari version of a circle) You need to collect the black dots that stream onto the screen, and avoid the white dots. When a black dot hits you, you get bigger. If a white dot hits you, you shrink to default size. You have a button that will reset you to default size in exchange for points. The bigger you get, the more points. (and risk) VOID and I have an interesting relationship, I love it and I hate it. I love the simplicity of it, and how I continually challenge myself to risk a bigger and bigger circle. It’s video gaming distilled into a few pixels. I hate the monotone look, the comparatively dull music and the difficulty there sometimes is in actually seeing what in the world is going on. The screen gets shadowded and shaded at times, which actually makes it extremely difficult to see the black dots you need to be collecting. They may have needed to do this to up difficulty and increase replay, but it just feels cheap. If I’m failing because I can’t see what’s happening, that’s not fun, it’s frustrating and unfair. If they had just made them difficult to see, I’d be okay with it as a challenge, but they’re impossible to see and it doesn’t work. But don’t let that sour you on SAGA or COMPLETE, because there’s still CORE.

CORE is like playing guitar hero with the d-pad. The screen is bifurcated into 4 squares, and you control the lines of intersection. Dots stream from all directions and you need to press the correct direction on the d-pad so that the right line lights up when the dot crosses it. If it sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is. It’s a simple idea, and it makes sense when you’re playing it, but I found it by far the most difficult of all. Your attention is split in four different ways, as you’re trying to watch each section of the screen at once to make sure you get them all in order. At times I couldn’t tell which dot was going to hit which section first, which pulls you out of the rhythm of the game, and makes it almost impossible to get back in. I found that in CORE I had more difficulty predicting the patterns than I did in FLUX or BEAT, but I spoke to a friend who felt exactly the opposite. Either way you’ll have to do a bit of memorization and maybe even get a bit lucky to beat some of the waves, as they do get extremely tricky.


So there you have all 6 games, and they share a common design language. The graphics, controls, ideas and music are all simple but brilliantly done, and are great in either package, so how do you decide which one to pick up?  There are a couple factors, the first being which system  you own, and how you like to play your games.  I felt that the pick up-put down way I usually play 3DS games really fit the games, as I could take a few cracks at RUNNER whenever I had a spare minute or three.  But, there is something to be said for the colourful graphics and much bigger sound when playing at home.  Then there is the use of the 3D in SAGA.  It’s a nice addition, and really adds depth to the backgrounds.  Personally I felt it made things a little more difficult to see when dealing with dots in BEAT, but I’ve heard others have the exact opposite opinion.  It’s a nice addition for sure, but not essential in any way.

But the big thing that COMPLETE has over SAGA is the extra levels.  On each title there are 20 extra levels, which adds up to 120 over the course of the title.  I didn’t really feel SAGA was lacking in depth or bredth of content personally, but it is a majour difference for those who are very value-concious.  My choice is SAGA hands-down, but I have to admit I have RUNNER for the PC already, hooked up to some very nice headphones.

So where does that leave us?  With a collection of 6 excellent games that are very polished, with a soundtrack to die for and a brutal difficulty.  If you’re at all curious, all 6 demos are currently up on WiiWare, so go take a look if you can’t decide.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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