Video Game Rentals Delivered

Bit.Trip Beat (WiiWare)

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-29 03:53:14

Bit.Trip Beat (WiiWare) - Rank A

Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
Date: 3/16/09

They could easily have named this game "Pong Hero". Bit.Trip Beat is a joyous combination of yestermillenium with a postmodern musical disposition.

The game mechanics are as retro as you can possibly get. Controlling a rectangular "paddle", you prevent square blips from getting past you. The core visuals aren't even 8-bit; they're straight up '70s Atari 2600 fare. And each blip you bounce sets off a tone, much like striking guitar notes in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The resulting music is a grin-inspiring form of electronica that's entirely appropriate to the experience: chiptune melodies.

The controls are supremely basic. Holding the Wiimote sideways, you simply tilt it up and down to slide the paddle accordingly. In that sense, anyone can pick up and play Bit.Trip Beat. However, this game gets seriously hard. Balls fly toward you in varying speeds and vectors and quantity. The simple, but bright graphics grow increasingly hypnotic and the pace ratchets up in intensity until one blink of your eyes does you in. This is my only real criticism. It may be that I have sensitive eyes (Geometry Wars had a similar effect), but the sheer intensity of flashing illumination can be epileptically blinding.

For every blip you successfully bounce, a meter at the top of the screen increases. If you manage to fill it up, the game evolves in presentation. The backgrounds become more elaborate and the music transitions into more resonant synth tones. Conversely, missing blips reduces a meter at the bottom. Should it completely empty out, the game will devolve into a more primitive form. The lowest purgatory before failing out completely, is a black and white tribute to Bit.Trip Beat's ancestral forefather. The music is killed completely, and the only audio are tinny bleeps and bloops that are emitted by the Wiimote itself. The speakers in the Wiimote are terrible, and I find it hilarious that Gaijin Games found a way to appropriately take advantage of that.

These varying levels of success encourage better play. The "leet" gamer will not be satisfied by merely surviving for the duration, but by keeping it as awesome as possible. Continued streaks of hits yield point multipliers for ridiculous high scores - the objects of lust for all hardcore retro gamers. Sadly, the lack of an online leaderboard is an unfortunate oversight.

There are only three songs or levels in Bit.Trip Beat, but each is fifteen minutes long. There are no checkpoints, so failing out requires starting from the beginning. Taking into consideration replay value, the plethora of flying blip variants to master, the boss fights (yes, boss fights!), and a four player co-op option, there's plenty of game here, especially when you consider the price point of $6.

To be honest, I doubt I'm anywhere near objective about this game. The nostalgia factor alone makes me giddy, and the coupling with modern pastiche has my head spinning. I can confidently vouch that it controls well, and is FREAKIN' COOL. Bit.Trip Beat is as much a pop-art installation piece as it is a game, and one of the very few enthusiastic purchases I've made for the Wii.

[Edit: another thematically similar game, Bit.Trip Core has now been released. I don't find it as satisfying, but gamers who LOVE the neo-retro movement might want to check it out as well.]

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