Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Rising Star Games
CommanderVideo's existential adventure ends where it began: on the Wii. After Gaijin's exceptional WiiWare rhythm games found new homes on the PC and iThings, the seminal series has returned to roost on Nintendo's console, complete in any sense of the word. This new retail compilation doesn't just contain all six BIT.TRIP titles - Beat, Core, Void, Runner, Fate and Flux - but it also brims with added fan service and value thanks to new challenge levels and a host of unlockables that uncover the backstory behind the episodic 8-Bit masterpiece.
But that's not the end of the story. Boutique import publisher Rising Star Games also recently helped Gaijin to bring the BIT.TRIP experience to the 3DS, where touchscreen controls and perfectly-suited mechanics allowed all six games to shine on a handheld. We've already awarded the portable powerhouse with a whopping 8/10 score in our BIT.TRIP SAGA review... and all of the games are available separately to download on WiiWare... so is this collection a step backwards for the franchise?
No, as it turns out. BIT.TRIP COMPLETE is completely brilliant.
The BIT.TRIP series is built around Synesthesia: the notion of being able to experience music through visuals, touch and gameplay. Its the finest example of the concept since Rez, and being able to enjoy the collection as part of a coherent package allows us to fully appreciate how each game treats the same basic mechanics in unique and exciting ways. Every gameplay interaction - such as hitting back an incoming projectile in Beat or making a tough jump in Runner - creates a randomised and distinct melody atop a dynamic background track that evolves with your actions. The visuals also adapt to compliment the music, becoming deeper and more detailed as you play well (or starkly descending into a primitive 8-Bit netherworld if you don't). It's a unique, compelling and thought-provoking exploration of how even relatively simple games can push the boundaries of interactive art.
Pretension aside, though, BIT.TRIP succeeds because the six games are all kinds of fun, profoundly addictive and designed to work perfectly on Nintendo's console.
Beat and Flux both resemble manic versions of Pong, where insane offscreen maniacs throw increasingly ridiculous combinations of incoming 'beats' in your direction to be furiously blocked by your paddle, creating a sensational dynamic soundtrack in the process. However, SAGA somewhat spoiled us thanks to its effortlessly excellent new touchscreen controls, and makes the original WiiMote tilt functionality seem primitive and clunky in comparison. After enjoying a 1:1 connection 'twixt stylus and paddle, having to struggle with the motion controls is counter intuitive to the extreme - after all, how far do you have to tilt the remote in order to move an inch up the screen? Two inches? Five? At least muscle memory will set in after a fair bit of practice.
But the Humble WiiMote also grounds us in the experience, and gives us the full Synesthesia effect that was missing from the 3DS port. Being able to literally feel the beat - the pulse - of the music through the rumble is a fundamental part of the action, and while I didn't actually miss it while playing SAGA, it connects you to the music in a deeply primal way. Effective use of the WiiMote speakers is another fun little attention to detail that will likely put a smile on your face.
Plus, why not get some friends involved if things get too tough? Multiplayer (which was sadly absent from SAGA) is back in force for Beat and Flux, allowing up to three other players to drop in at any time and control their own paddle. It's a fantastic cooperative experience, especially on the harder difficulty settings.
The other four games are all present and correct, and work as brilliantly as we remember. Runner is still as ruthlessly addictive and aggravatingly tough as ever, presenting us with a smorgasbord of horrendous platforming gauntlets that will push your reflexes and memory to the limit. You'll howl, you'll cry and you'll curse Gaijin with every fibre of your being, yet you'll still keep right on playing for many hours. Fate's bullet hell bliss, Core's thumping rhythms and Void's hectic black hole-absorbing action feel fresh and relevant despite their age, and online leaderboards add a extra reason to keep on plugging away for high scores and perfect runs in order to prove your prowess to the world. You can read full descriptions of each game in our hands-on preview and/or BIT.TRIP SAGA review.
Visually, BIT.TRIP COMPLETE looks absolutely fantastic, standing as testament to Gaijin's gloriously crisp and colourful art style. You'll definitely want to output via a Wii composite cable for the full effect, but it still looks stunning despite the Wii's graphical limitations. They were made for the console, and it shows.
BIT.TRIP COMPLETE isn't just a lazy collection of ports slapped onto a disc, though. Instead, Gaijin have provided an entire suite of unlockables that include various trailers, music samples and letters from the design team that explain the symbolism behind the series. On top of that, you'll also be able to cut your teeth on 120 new challenge levels which provide a stern (if slightly short) challenge for even experienced players. Just to cement COMPLETE's reputation as a truly definitive edition, the box also contains a soundtrack sampler CD. Rising Star Games always do their best to add extra value to their compilations, and this is easily their most impressive work to date.
Decisions, Decisions: COMPLETE vs SAGA
In raw value terms, COMPLETE is a no-brainer. You've got extra content. A soundtrack CD. Multiplayer. Online leaderboards. Existing BIT.TRIP veterans or those who've dabbled their toes in the water without buying them all will revel in Gaijin's obvious love for their fanbase. What's more, the RRP is very competitive considering that you'll pay much the same (if not more) for individual WiiWare downloads.
However, if you own a 3DS and have yet to experience the series, I'd actually recommend that you start with SAGA. BIT.TRIP feels totally natural on a handheld, as if the six games were originally designed for a portable form factor. It's the innovative and unique gameplay experience that the 3DS has been crying out for.
Either way, you need to play BIT.TRIP. You owe it to yourself.
- Six fantastic, addictive and visually arresting games
- Great multiplayer and online leaderboards
- A host of new levels, unlockables, fan service and added value make for a truly definitive edition
- SAGA's touchscreen controls and portable functionality are arguably a better option for 3DS owners
- Runner is really hard
- Seriously, it made me cry once
The Short Version: BIT.TRIP COMPLETE is the definitive collection of six of this generation's most important - and most enjoyable - indie games. Though SAGA is still probably a better option for 3DS-toting newcomers, this compilation's massive added value and infinite replayability makes for a nigh-essential Wii purchase.