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A Story Of "Just One More Try," The Gift And Curse Of Bit.Trip.Runner

pklepek
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Posted May 28, 2010 - By pklepek


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A Story Of

It's 8:28 AM, reads my iPad. I live two blocks from work, so I never have to rush over in the morning. I like to be at my desk a little after 9:00, which means I need to leave by, well, pretty much 9:00. You know a developer's gotten it right, however, when you tell youself "oh, just one more try."

I'd turned off Bit.Trip.Runner the night before because my girlfriend has asked me to grill some chicken for dinner. My apartment complex's grill is a few floors down. It's a nice night out, so I know we're going to eat downstairs and when we come back up, likely spend the night catching up on TV with a few beers. In essence, it means no more Bit.Trip.Runner for the night. So, just before grilling, I quickly squeezed in a few more rounds with stage 1-11, the level before you encounter the first boss.

1-11, you are a son of a bitch. It's tremendously longer than any stage prior and thanks to Bit.Trip.Runner's one-hit-and-you're-back-to-the-start mechanic, there's enormous opportunity to mess up. Gamers happily engaged with these game-lengthening tactics in the 8-bit days, but that's not the norm anymore. Any game that relies on punishing the player for mistakes needs to provide gameplay with enormous reasons for starting over again, even after dying for what feels like the 100th time.

But like I said, it's 8:28 AM. I'm dressed but haven't packed up my stuff for work just yet. No coffee.

A Story Of "Do you usually play video games before work? Like, to get pumped up?" asked an out-of-town friend sleeping on the couch for the next few days, who doesn't really play any video games. He last tried Final Fantasy 7.

"Uh, no," I responded, truthfully.

I try to sleep in as late as possible under every circumstance.

The minutes tick by as I keep failing at 1-11, sometimes making it a few screens further than the previous attempt, but usually flubbing something simple at the beginning, shaming my fingers. I was getting closer, though. One time, I quite clearly was a few presses away. I crack my neck.

I die, of course. Again. The goal line was, honestlyhonestly, within eyes-reach. "Damn!" remarked my friend. It says something about a game when a non-gamer can, too, get into the heat of the moment.

"One more run," I told myself, as my girlfriend headed out to work.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"8:58," she told me.

"Damn," I mumbled.

Then, it happened. The run. A few of the oh-so-precious golden collectibles are missed along the way, each one of them causing a mental twitch and more than once encouraging me to purposely die and hope for not just the run but the perfect run, but I resisted the urge. I made it through the last few, dangerous hoops. Victory is mine. Riding high, I decided to try my newfound luck at the boss stage.

Then, it happens. The run. I make it through the last few, dangerous hoops. Victory is mine.

I failed miserably. "Er, what time is it?" I asked one last time.

"9:02," said the friend.

Off to work I went.

From the moment Gaijin Games announced Bit.Trip.Runner, I was already a fan. I can't ask for much more from a game than a one-death 2D platformer wrapped in modernized 8-bit art and music. Make no mistake, my friends: it's hard as hell -- in a very good way -- and it reminded me how difficult it is for games to balance challenge and frustration.

Bit.Trip.Runner is available now via WiiWare.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Tags: Videogames, Wii
A Story Of "Just One More Try," The Gift And Curse Of Bit.Trip.Runner
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