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Sean Pettibone

Review

Bit_Trip_Complete_WiiBit.trip.complete (Nintendo Wii)

Bit.trip.complete is a brilliant collection of innovative titles from indie developer Gaijin Games. Wii owners who already experienced these games online will be happy to learn of the numerous extras and enhancements included on this disc edition, while those who havenít played these games will find them innovative, with a mix of rhythm and retro styles that makes their gameplay mechanics deceptively simple yet surprisingly challenging. This classic formula is what makes these games so appealing, its easy to pick up and play, yet its difficulty keeps you hooked for a very long time.   

Bit.trip.complete is a superb compilation of challenging and innovative titles. While it might seem like it blends together, gamers will find there are 6 distinct games, all of which bring a different mechanic personality to their gameplay. The bt.trip games star Captain Video, a pixellated figure who runs through the gamesí cinemas and even takes center stage in a few of them, making them feel a bit more coherent. The games all share an 8-bit aesthetic thatís reductionist back to the Pong-era, with some modern touches. They have simplistic gameplay mechanics mixed with rhythm gaming to create a unique, innovative feel. Most players should begin with Bit.trip.beat, a title that begins as a takeoff on Pong. You control the cursor at the left of the screen and need to block and defend the square balls that come at you. The controls and gameplay mechanics are deceptively simple: you need to hit the ball in sequence to the music in order to stave off their attacks. Controlling the cursor only requires you to moves the Wiimote up and down and it tracks your movements expertly. Other games have different controls, but the basics are deceptively simple. Things start off slowly, since you only need to hit one or two of them at a time. Once the pace quickens, the gameís challenges gradually heats up. These mechancis might sound simple, but youíll definitely need more skills as the game gradually heats up. After the first few rounds, balls come at you in waves and then come more elaborate patterns.

The trick to succeeding in Bit.Trip.Beat is to hit the squares sequentially so that the score multiplier and bonus increases. As you defeat more and more of them, youíll enter the Hyper mode where background visuals become more elaborate, the music becomes more intense and layered. If you beat enough levels, youíll pass checkpoints and youíll unlock additional challenges. However, when you miss a couple of them, the game puts you back a little bit and you can see the graphics and intensity devolve. Miss too many of the balls and youíll enter the Nether mode, where all the visuals completely devolve into the most simplistic black and white graphics reminiscent of Pong, while the soundtrack is reduced to primitive bleeps and blips. Here, you are in danger of losing the game completely if you miss another item. The good news here is that you can upgrade back to the mega mode if you catch enough of them. You progress is measured on the status bar, with indicates either how far you are from the next stage, or how many hits you can take before you lose the game in nether mode.

The next games in Bit.trip sequence take the basic approach of Bit,trip.beat and expand on it. In b.t.core, youíre in control of a cross-hair at the center of the screen and have to light up bars that cross the screen as the dots pass them. Itís a deceptively simple task at first, but as the dots come at you with increased intensity and speed, the challenge becomes much harder. Youíll definitely need those split second reflexes in order to succeed in this one as well. Its definitely a harder game that b.t.beat, so youíll need to keep that in mind. Luckily, it benefits from the standard Wii controllerís ease of use and its later stages, where things really begin to flow, feel a like like creating music, though with a gaming twist. The visuals in this one are very much like in Beat, with a cool retro approach giving a pleasantly low-tech sheen to them. As in the other games, progress is measured by the status bar and the game goes back and forth between standard and nether modes. Things take a diversion in Bit.trip.void. Here the objective is to control a large black ball that grows larger as you collect smaller black blips that come at it. The challenge is to avoid the white blips, which will immediately reduce the size of your white ball as they impact your ball. Take too many hits into your white ball and you find yourself reduced back almost to nothing. Here, the patterns are similar to previous games, but the object is to avoid, the complete opposite approach. Its just as challenging as the other modes, but its style of play is different in that you have to move the ball around the screen. The controls are different as well, using the Wiimote pointer or the classic controllerís analog stick to move around the screen,

The biggest outlier in the compilation is Bit.trip,runner, which isnít much like the other games in any way. You control Commander Video as he runs through various platforming stages, avoiding objects while trying to collect as much gold as you can. These stages begin simple enough, but they require you to be perfect on every run, otherwise you go back straight to the beginning of each stage. As you complete stages, new abilities such as bending or grabbing are added, which makes things even more difficult. The patterns become even more elaborate with each stage, so youíll need an excellent memory, Itís a very hard game to progress through, especially if you are more accustomed to easier games elsewhere on the disc. Remember, a single error brings you right back to the beginning of the stage, which can make things enormously frustrating if you donít have the patience for it. There arenít the stage-downs that come up in the other games, which leaves you no room for mistakes, and makes this an exercise in skill. This is easy the hardest game on the disc and probably the one you might want to tackle once youíve gotten the hang of the earlier games.

Next up, players will find a slightly easier time of it with Bit.trip.fate a kind of on-rails shooter where you take Commander Video on a run on a set path and have to destroy anything that gets in his way, Its not as easy as it sounds, since youíre limited to the path you have and canít change this. Its not as easy as it sounds, since the enemies have a way of converging on your location, making it seemingly impossible to escape their bullets. However, you can add additional shooting powers by collecting the power-ups you find along the way. Finally, things come full circle with the final game in the series, Bit.trip.flux, This is very much like beat in its approach, though it has much more elaborate backgrounds and more challenging patterns of dots for you to deflect, making it a very difficult challenge and one that you shouldnít try and tackles unless youíre at least proficient on Beatís style of play. You definitely wonít get far if you havenít tuned-up your skills, since things ratchet up in intensity much faster and the pace is absolutely unrelenting and unforgiving.

These six games represent a full cycle of development, and it shows in their increasingly elaborate presentation, which pays tribute to the earliest electronic games. The simple visuals and graphics are immediately appealing and should resonate with players who grew up during the 70ís and 80ís. There are definitely a number of tributes here that are subtle yet fun and make the game very much a cool flashback to an earlier time. You can definitely tell a lot has gone into the design as well, with a high level of difficulty and challenge. This approach is another key aspect in how the game rekindles the 8-bit era, which was defined by its emphasis on skill over style and gave players few short-cuts. Those who arenít ready for this type of challenge will probably find themselves frustrated by Bit.Tripís lack of leeway, but those looking for a challenge will definitely enjoy it. The game rewards players by unlocking extras such as a soundtrack and short videos along with a few extra modes. Bit.trip.complete is definitely one of the more interesting and enjoyable compilations weíve played on the Wii, While the themes are very much tied together, thereís plenty of variety in their gameplay with different control schemes and approaches used in each game to keep your interest-level high throughout.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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