Gaijin Games' BIT.TRIP series is an indie institution, a runaway success story that has found a home everywhere from the PC to WiiWare to mobile devices. The franchise's colourful art design, soothing synesthesia and outrageous addiction factor have resonated with countless willing gamers, and we were delighted to hear that Rising Star Games are bundling the entire six-game lineup into a definitive Wii edition with plenty of new content, global leaderboards and a soundtrack CD.
I recently sat down with the latest preview build to see how things are coming along - and though the core games are very similar to the already-released WiiWare versions, we couldn't be more excited about how it's shaping up. BIT.TRIP's crisp and colourful art style is a perfect fit for the Wii since it's utterly gorgeous without taxing the hardware in any way, and the games themselves are simple to play yet outrageously difficult to master.
Since BEAT.TRIP Complete is a compilation of six thematically similar but mechanically unique titles, we'll briefly discuss each one in turn before moving onto the question of bonuses, unlockables and value. Veterans might want to skip through the first half of the preview... but there are a couple of surprises along the way.
BIT.TRIP Beat & Flux
BIT.TRIP Beat is probably the most beloved iteration of the series. Players control a paddle on the side of the screen and have to bounce back an ferocious selection of incoming Beats (read: projectiles) that form a discrete melody when hit. The backing track evolves as you successfully repel the barrage, but fail and the luscious colour pares back to a stark pixelated 8-Bit experience. Pleasingly, the low-res sounds actually issue from the WiiMote speaker, which breaks the fourth wall and amplifies the painful humiliation of reaching that critical stage.
Flux is much the same concept, but with some new powerups to snag, checkpoints to mitigate aggravating failure and new 'Avoid Beats' to... well... avoid.
As with the WiiWare versions, Beat and Flux have used the WiiMote's motion controls to advantage: you'll hold the controller sideways and use incredibly fine movements to move the paddle up and down. If you have fast enough reflexes, you can even manually jam along with the song thanks to four tones mapped to the D-Pad. However, precise though it may be, the WiiMote still can't hold a candle to the pixel perfect responsiveness of standard or touchscreen controls - and the preview build doesn't provide the option to switch to more traditional D-Pad or thumbstick inputs. Considering how taxing the later levels become, we hope that this functionality will be implemented for the release version. For high score runs, if nothing else.
The dark horse of the BIT.TRIP franchise casts players as an expanding black blob who needs to absorb all of the increasingly-intense patterns of in order to . You'll need incredibly tight reflexes to weave your cumbersome black hole around the screen while avoiding damaging white projectiles, and know when it's better to sacrifice your multiplier to decrease your size and squeeze through narrow gaps.
Tight Nunchuck thumbstick controls (no tilt here) and the trademark brilliance of Gaijin's audio and visual design make Core an aggressively compelling experience, and a zen masterpiece in its own right. There's no reason to suspect that this version will be any different.
Ah, Runner. How I've missed you, you utter b*stard. Runner is certainly one of the compilation's headline acts, and with good reason: the simple jump and slide controls (perfectly translated to the WiiMote) allow you to enjoy the raucous and colourful platforming experience that relies on split-second timing.
Oh, and such timing. Such terrifyingly precise timing. As a seasoned and self-styled master, I completely forgot just how demanding even the earlier levels are - and a simple staircase formed an impenetrable barrier that caused me to fail the second stage no less than eight times. Luckily the evolving soundtrack, gorgeous visuals and global leaderboard runs will be more than enough to keep you hooked for innumerable hours, and I was forced to play one of the other games thanks to a rep prying the WiiMote out of my sweaty, shaking hands.
Core is a rhythm game, pure and simple. As beats begin their inexorable march across the screen, you'll need to perfectly match direction and timing in order to avoid painful and embarrassing humiliation. It's immensely difficult and, in this pundit's opinion, by far the weakest game in the series - though the port is certainly enough to pass muster and the D-Pad controls are sufficient unto the day.
BIT. TRIP Fate
BIT.TRIP Fate is by far and away the most traditionally 'hardcore' game in the Complete Edition, as it's essentially a wonderful hybrid of bullet hell, rail and lightgun shooters. CommanderVideo is tethered to a continually curving sine wave, meaning that you'll need to strategically plan your movements to avoid the brutal onslaught without being backed into an inescapable bind. Controlling the on-screen reticule and responding with your own ruinous neon firepower is as simple as pointing the WiiMote much like a traditional lightgun port, and the experience promises to be as technical and demanding as you'd rightfully expect.
What's New: Bonuses & Unlockables
If you're already a seasoned BIT.TRIP veteran, I apologise for making you wade through all that. But now it's time to take a look at what's new in the package.
The main event, apart from the soundtrack CD which will likely become a staple part of your music collection, are the new levels. Each of the six games contains twenty new and immensely challenging stages, which can be unlocked as you progress through the campaigns. Since there are 120 in total, this is likely to be a major draw even if you've already bought some of the WiiWare or PC versions.
Each game also contains completely new and enhanced difficulty modes, along with online leaderboards that should hopefully lead to bitter rivalries between the world's best players. If you're spoiling for a challenge, Gaijin are happy to oblige.
Netting high scores and completing levels will also reward you with an audio gallery containing fan remixes, original songs and demo mixes. An image and video gallery are on hand with concept art and behind-the-scenes footage detailing the story of CommanderVideo that unlock as you progress. Finally, a selection of letters from Gaijin Games director Alex Neuse will thank you personally for supporting the franchise over the last few years.
The verdict? Great, as it stands. BIT.TRIP Complete promises to be a truly definitive edition that's perfect for newcomers and provides plenty of new content for old masters. Rising Star Games are set to confirm a March release date this week, and we'll let you know when we hear anything.