You can’t get much more retro than the Bit.Trip series. They are inspired by old-school games, full of chiptune sounds and music, have pixelated graphics that focus on bits, and no forgiveness whatsoever in the difficulty. It’s no wonder that I loved the first one, and now welcome the latest, Bit.Trip CORE, onto WiiWare with open arms.
The concept is simple enough. You sit in the middle of the screen as this D-pad shaped object that takes aim and fires at bits as they come at you from all directions. You can shoot up, down, left and right by pressing the corresponding direction on the D-pad as well as the 2 button, and if things get a little too hectic you can fire off a bomb with the 1 button. The bits move directly in front of your team, or around you in circles, or diagonally, or back and forth quickly, sometimes with tons of them coming at once from all different angles. The game keeps you guessing, and putting the levels into muscle memory will go a long ways towards your successfully completing them.
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Gaijin Games
July 6, 2009
If you can hit lots of these bits in a row, then the music and graphics will become enhanced. There are different levels that indicate this, like Hyper and Mega, and the corresponding word flashes on the screen as you approach it and eventually get there. Missing too many in a row sends you in the other direction, making the music and backgrounds basic until eventually you end up in a screen that looks as basic as Asteroids or Pong, with no music. Miss too many there, and it’s Game Over for you. You should get used to seeing that screen, because this game is difficult, but if you’re willing to play each of the three levels a few times, you will learn its secrets and master it, just like say, Punch-Out!!!, or various space shooters.
One thing to notice is that the HUD is much better organized in CORE than it was in BEAT. You have an easier time figuring out how far along in each level you are, and where you rank as far as Nether/Hyper/Mega/etc. go. This also helps you when you realize how close you were to finishing a level, and gives you that “One more time” feeling.
There are a few wrinkles in the gameplay that also make Bit.Trip CORE a good time, like the challenge beam, which forces you to turn your Wii Remote in a different direction since your D-pad has now been twisted in a different way. You end up holding the controller like it’s a joystick, pressing the 2 down at the bottom (or at the top, depending on what challenge you get) while pressing what used to be left for up, or what used to be up for right. You get bonus points depending on how successful you were during the challenge too, which is a good way to shoot up your leaderboard.
Which brings me to the only major complaint I have with Bit.Trip CORE, and that’s the lack of online leaderboards. It’s a shame the first two games don’t utilize that feature, but Gaijin Games has also told us that they are looking into it for future releases. Here’s hoping that we get them in time for the third entry, because there’s nothing I love more than thinking I’m great at a game and then seeing myself ranked far lower than I ever imagined. It’s great for motivation and replay value, even if it is a bit depressing at first.
Blast Factor: Bit.Trip CORE is every bit as good as its predecessor, and puts enough new spins on the retro design to warrant a purchase. Even if the basic universe is the same, the gameplay is different enough that it rightfully feels like a brand new game. If you like your games old-school and challenging, then Bit.Trip CORE is perfect for you, especially with the great, foot-tapping music and colorful visuals.
Bit.Trip CORE is available exclusvely on the Nintendo Wii’s WiiWare service, and costs 600 Nintendo Points