I’m Jake and it’s time for a review of Gaijin Games’s latest entry into the Bit.Trip saga – Bit.Trip Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien! Despite having the most cumbersome name of all of 2013’s indie releases so far (with good competition), Runner 2 bursts forth as the best. This addition to the Rhythm/Platforming genre has insane style, with appeal, gameplay, and tunes to boot.
For the most part, Runner 2 is in a genre of its own. Combining seemless platforming in the style of an endless runner like Temple Run, along with the building of music similar to a game like Sound Shapes, Runner 2 makes any sort of direct comparison incomplete.
The game’s star, Commander Video, is a bouncy, quick fellow who’s goal is to get to the end of each of the game’s levels. Commander Video and his friends find themselves in a bizarre dimension, narrated by legendary voice actor Chris Martinet as himself, who introduces in the game in a manner not unlike the way I introduced this review. The opening moments of the game prepare you for a magical experience unlike any other this year.
As the player, you control our hero by having him jump, kick, slide and more in time with the game’s fluent beat. Obstacles will appear before Commander Video, requiring quick actions to jump them, all while collecting gold bars. Each action adds notes to the tune of the level, making each level exciting as you try to collect the most, and make the most moves to build up more and more of the track.
The music always starts off simple. Bells and bleeps and bloops evolve into more and more complex chimes and techno swishes as more notes are collected, and the level progresses. Eventually, each level rises into a glorious crescendo, where it hits its climax. Reaching this point is always a rewarding feeling. As the track quiets down into a familiar sequence as you pass the finish line of each level, a great deal of satisfaction is felt.
You have to earn it, however. Runner 2 will make you squirm with challenges that require deep concentration. Gold and obstacles will require the quickest and tightest of movements, some impossible looking, but all very doable due to the game’s tight controls. Messing up an obstacle will send you back to the beginning of the entire stage, zooming past all of the obstacles leading up to the one you’ve yet to conquer. Checkpoints break up levels, but for more points they can be jumped over.
The quick respawn time makes it feel like you are really learning each and every tune at it’s most intricate levels. A real sense of progress is felt when you conquer even a small obstacle you had issues with. It is akin to learning an instrument, where each new note is a success in its own right. The upbeat and crisp tunes of the great soundtrack act as your reward for success, easily working in the pleasure centers of your brain.
Those looking for the same challenge as the original Runner game might not find exactly what they wanted here. Runner 2 is certainly more forgiving. In fact, it is as forgiving as you need it to be. There are several difficulty modes, each will allow you to progress the story post completion. If you want to go for the highest scores, you will have to master each level down to the frames to conquer the leaderboards. In game levels offer branching paths that clearly designate their difficulty. In this respect, Runner 2 really wants to cater to people who want an insane challenge, and people who want to take Runner 2 as an exercise is relaxation, both of which is does fantastically.
Runner 2 takes you across 4 quirky worlds, each with amazing scenery. Paying attention to the colorful backdrops will often be distracting when it comes down to the extreme platforming. Amazingly animated, and while Runner 2 isn’t the MOST stylized game, it is definitely good looking. I find that I prefer the pop arty 3D style of Runner 2 over the previous game. The character’s exaggerated animations while executing moves are hilariously entertaining to watch. The whole game knows what it wants as far as its vibe, and it nails it on the head. It is smirkingly self aware of it’s bright color palette, aware of what it accomplished.
Bit.Trip Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is an exercise in great level design, engaging game mechanics, catchy music, and visual mastery. It tugs at your senses, and wraps it’s soft hands around your motor cortex. It’s deep and intricate, while still being somehow cathartic to spend hours playing. It’s hard to find a gamer who I can’t recommend Runner 2 to. Luckily it is on just about every platform out there!