4cr Plays – Runner 2
Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, the latest entry in the BIT.TRIP series is finally available in the Wii U eshop, and it’s time to take Commander Video on a new adventure. Those familiar with Bit.Trip Runner know what to expect from this game (for those who aren’t, be sure to check my review for Bit.Trip Saga). Regardless of your history with the series, lets recap so newcomers will understand what this awesome game is all about.
Right from the start Charles Martinet politely introduces himself as the narrator of the game. The name might not ring a bell right away, but most of you are probably familiar with his work. Charles Martinet is the voice actor who is the official voice for Mario(since 1994), and who also voices Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toadsworth and many other Nintendo characters. Having him provide a voice-over as narrator for the game as himself should tip you off that you’re in for an interesting journey.
Runner 2 is basically an auto-run game. If you have some negative associations with the genre, read on. Runner 2 differentiates itself from the competition in several key ways. It is a rhythm-based auto-runner with a lot of depth and features a great soundtrack that is slowly revealed as you play each level. Every single action, obstacle, hazard and pick-up produces a unique sound that complements the music as you play. Because newcomers have a lot to learn, the game features a short tutorial every time a new element is introduced. The first of these is jumping. Pressing the B button allows you to jump over enemies, pits or steps that are all over the place, and also generates a unique jumping sound that compliments the soundtrack. But jumping is only the basic action, and if you hold down the button you’ll be able to glide for a bit and increase your jump distance. You will also need to hold down on the D-Pad to slide below enemies and hazards so that you don’t end up crashing. Next we have the kick, and the Y button activates this useful skill that will allow you to destroy obstacles that have a red stop sign. Another skill is the Springs for which you need you to hold up on the D-Pad to be launched into the air. Then you have bouncers which are like springs but are not on the ground, and all you need to do is jump on top of them to, bounce ahead. Finally, you can hold right on the D-Pad to block, which turns runner into Bit.Trip Beat for a few seconds when some very colorful squares make their way towards your character.
A new element that has been added to the series is the Loop. In some stages, your character will enter a semi-circle, and you must use the right analog stick to “track” his path around the semi circle in order to score bonus points that will help you reach the top spot on the leaderboards. Every single level has a global leaderboard so you can know how good you really are, and compare your score with your friends to motivate you to go back into each level to improve. There is also one final skill available: dancing! This is unlocked later in the game and pressing the ZR button will make your character dance which awards you points. You have to be careful because hitting the dance button while close to a hazard or pit will not give you enough time to jump, slide, kick or block which will force you to start all over again.
One very welcome improvement is that every level now has a mid-level checkpoint that makes it easier to carry on if you can’t make a jump or aren’t fast enough to dodge a hazard. In Bit. Trip Runner you had to restart the whole level if you were hit, and Runner 2 makes sure that everyone can at least finish levels thanks to the checkpoint. However if you jump over the checkpoint marker you are rewarded with a lot of points, but won’t have a checkpoint to go back to if you’re hit or miss a jump. The bonus points are a nice incentive since they allow you increase your odds of placing high on the leaderboard. They also allow anyone to play Runner 2 just like they played Bit.Trip Runner: by being perfect.
As is the case with the rest of the Bit.Trip series, the music in Runner 2 is awesome. There is a very energetic and upbeat soundtrack that compliments the action on screen and moves the game forward through more and more levels, just like a soundtrack should. The music is mostly in the background when you start a level, and it slowly builds up with every red pick-up you collect in each level… until it explodes into frantic action! And, just like last time, you are tasked with collecting all the gold bars in a level in order to get a perfect score which gives you a chance to shoot your character out of a cannon and onto a target for bonus points! If you manage to nail the bulls-eye you’ll get the most bonus points, and you’ll achieve a Perfect+ rating for the level, which is a nice incentive to replay a level if you didn’t hit the target in the center.
In Bit. Trip. Runner you could access bonus stages by collecting all gold bars in a level. Runner 2 knows you LOVED the hard and unforgiving action from those retro-themed levels but this time around, things are a bit different. The retro levels aren’t “Atari 2600″ retro and instead they are a bit more 12-bit in nature (not quite 8-bit, not quite 16-bit). They’re still as hard as ever, but Gaijin Games has shown they have a heart and will allow you 3 lives per retro level. Miss once, and you lose a heart. Lose all 3 hearts and it is game over! In order to access the retro levels (there are 25 in total) you must collect a Retro Cartridge within a level (you will know which ones have a retro level since the world map shows you the outline of the cartridge) Once you do that you’ll be able to replay it from the world map by going to that level and pressing the Y button to activate it.
There are also chests on some of the levels of Runnner 2, and they unlock new costumes for your characters. Most of the chests are available out in the open, but some are sequestered behind a lock that requires the corresponding key from within the level. In order for you to get the key for the level, you have to access and beat the Key Vault! The Key Vault can be unlocked by finding the alternate exit of the level that is right next to the Vault level. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry, some levels also feature alternate routes that bump the difficulty for a level which have alternate exits which lead to extra levels? You can unlock extra characters by completing these very hard extra levels.
If you, or someone you know, had some trouble completing the levels in Bit.Trip Runner because you (or they) thought the levels were too hard, Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is here to help! You can now select between three difficulty settings for every single level in the game, and you can mix and match as much as you want. If level 6 of world 1 is giving you a lot of trouble just change it to easy mode and enjoy! If level 8 of World 2 not as difficult as you wanted it to be, ramp up the settings so that you are overwhelmed by one hazard after another!
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a very polished and fun game that manages to improve on the foundation set by Bit.Trip Runner while offering an experience that feels fresh and unique in this day and age. It will take you a while to complete all 100 levels in Runner 2 especially if you are a completionist and want to finish each level 3 times (once for each difficulty setting) to complete 100% of the game. At only $14.99 it is a great indie game that you should add to your collection.