Bit.Trip Complete is a stellar collection of an ambitious six-part indie series. There's plenty of variety between each game and they all provide sublime surreal imagery married to lovely chiptune music. However, its punishing difficulty, trial and error design, and unforgiving checkpoints make it an acquired taste that requires extreme determination.
- Striking audio/visual presentation
- Mechanics are easy to grasp, yet hard to master
- New difficulty modes, challenges, and bonus content add value
- Old school approach to difficulty means lots of trial and error
- Lack of checkpoints in early games
Bit.Trip Complete Review:
Before there was Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Galaga Legions DX, or Pac-Man Championship Edition DX there was a little known game tucked away on WiiWare called Bit.Trip Beat that had the tenacity to revitalize the retro scene before it was in vogue.
It was soon discovered that this was just the tip of the iceberg in developer Gaijin Games's master plan to release a six-part series of simplistic arcade games representing the journey from conception to the afterlife for their mascot, Commander Video. It's a heady premise that's easily missed focusing on each of its constituent parts, but Bit.Trip Complete on Wii not only unites them, but brings about a bevy of extras making it the definitive version of Commander Video's saga.
Grandchild of Eden
Each Bit.Trip title utilizes a different set of mechanics, though they're all tied together through simple controls, surreal blocky graphics, catchy chiptune soundtracks, and rhythm-based gameplay. Beat and Flux bookend the series with variations of Pong. By holding the controller horizontally and tilting it back and forth, you move your paddle up and down as it deflects incoming projectiles -- called beats -- in sync with the soundtrack. The types of projectiles vary, as they bounce and alter their speed and trajectory in peculiar color-coded patterns.
Core has you controlling a stationary d-pad looking gizmo locked into the center of the screen that shoots lasers in the four cardinal directions. Square beats dance around the screen, and you must zap them at the right time. Void is the only game where you have full control of your avatar across the screen. Controlling a black hole it's your job to gather black beats, while avoiding the offending white ones. Collecting black beats increases your size making it impossible to avoid collisions, so you must frequently shrink back down by cashing in your earned points, giving it a unique risk vs reward system.
Runner is the most striking of the bunch. A simplified platformer, you're constantly moving forward ala Canabalt, and must jump, slide, punch, and block your way through increasingly preposterous hazards. Finally, Flux is an on-rails side-scrolling shooter where Commander Video is quite literally tethered to a cable, allowing you to only control whether he moves forwards or backwards and where he shoots with the Wiimote.
Each game in the collection is absolutely gorgeous with a distinct art style that combines Atari era pixelated graphics with contemporary hi-res effects, with stunning results. Its colorful cubes and sharp edges may look chunky in screenshots, but seeing it in motion is as hypnotic and dizzying as Child of Eden or Rez.
The vintage aesthetic isn't simply for show as these titles hearken back to the outlandish difficulty of early arcade games. Much like its ancient inspirations, the challenge doesn't always feel fair. While much of it is based on pattern recognition, even more is predicated on rote trial and error and memorization. This is especially egregious in Beat and Core, where the levels last approximately 15 minutes with no checkpoints. Going through the same stages for the umpteenth time just to fall victim to a particularly sadistic sequence was acceptable in the early 80s, but it takes the patience of a saint to put up with today.
It's obviously a deliberate choice catered to a certain type of gamer, but to me this aggressive repetition sullied any sense of wonder these stages once brought. Runner is supposed to be about invigoration, but after repeating the beginning of the same stage upwards of 50 times, all I felt was numb.
Thankfully, this collection has added an easy mode, increasing the acceptable margin of error before getting a game over. Even easy mode can be quite challenging (especially in Runner where all it does it remove collectible gold pickups so you won't be tempted by them), but it highly increases the layman's chance of seeing everything, while providing practice for hardcore players.
The truly dedicated are likewise rewarded with a hard mode as well as 20 bonus challenges for each game. These are bite-sized trials, tasking players with surviving brief stretches of Beat without missing a beat (pun intended), or destroying every foe and collecting every power up in Fate.
Elsewhere, this anthology comes with unlockable letters from the creators on the meaning of each game, a video gallery to conveniently piece the story together, concept art, and a soundtrack CD. Far from a slapdash port, this collection has been lavished with extra goodies making it the best version of the series available (It's worth noting the Bit.Trip series was simultaneously released on 3DS as Bit.Trip Saga. This collection contains all the games, but none of the bonus content, new difficulty modes, challenges, or co-op. All the games control exceptionally well on the handheld though).
Bit.Trip Complete is a fascinating mix at modern rhythm games merged with punishing retro sensibilities and abstract storytelling. Though it's not for everyone. It requires extraordinary patience and zen-like reflexes to really get the most out of, and I found myself dazzled and curious rather than infatuated. And yet, for whatever masochistic reason, I keep coming back for more. If you're weary of contemporary games' regenerating health, infinite continues, and complex control schemes, Bit.Trip Complete is a nostalgia laden journey back to basics. Just don't say I didn't warn you.