iPhone App Video Review: BIT.TRIP RUN!

by Andrew Koziara

iOS gamers have never enjoyed the pleasure of playing the acclaimed and unique runner, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, a WiiWare, Nintendo DS, and Steam title with multiple awards under its belt. Gaijin Games has quite the impressive library of titles, though before now we've only had the great BIT.TRIP BEAT on the App Store. Well, they've skipped BIT.TRIP RUNNER and just ported the sequel. Originally called Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien… we can just call it BIT.TRIP RUN!

I almost want to sit here and just praise Gaijin Games for shortening the title for the whole review, but we should probably dive into the game. Aside from the perennial protagonist Commander Video, pretty much all the BIT.TRIP games are notable for their music acting as more than simple background noise. Music is usually incorporated into gameplay somehow, and that's true here. As you run through each level, jumping, sliding, kicking, and dancing your way through obstacles, every jump you take and every item you collect fits with the song that's playing. It's an auto-runner primarily, but with a good chunk of rhythm game flowing in its veins.

All of the moves, such as jumping or kicking, are completed with taps and swipes. There are many new context sensitive obstacles now as well, such as kick turning into block when projectiles are near. I hate to get into the main flaws of the game so soon, but I pretty much have to. The controls are a problem. They're very unresponsive, as if there's some input lag. That, or the game will misread your swipe as a tap, making you jump when you need to slide or kick. Even when I'm being super careful and deliberate with my gestures, it still happens. Not everyone is complaining about the controls, however, so it could just be people with older devices like myself dealing with these issues, though I can't say for sure.

That said, the game is still playable with a heaping helping of patience. Controls aside, everything in this game is polished and excellent. The smooth polygonal visuals, while still gorgeous looking, are a departure from the unique, sub-retro style of the previous title. The 2D art style in the menus and cut scenes had me drooling. Though the game eschews the original's visual style, the music, level design, and most importantly, the unlockables are back in full force. There are plenty of characters to unlock by beating various levels, plus bonus challenge levels and retro levels, classic pixel art and all. Primary levels come loaded with collectible gold, power-up tokens, and hidden chests full of costumes and other goodies. Each level this time around has a checkpoint at the halfway mark, which you can skip for score bonuses.

This initial release is just a slice of the full sized PC and Console game pie, but the rest of the worlds and levels have already been promised as a completely free update. Even with the endlessly frustrating control issues, I'm loving this game. If those aren't a problem for you, or they get patched soon, this game will be an indisputable must own. Simply adding four directional buttons as an alternative to swipes would do wonders. If you've yet to dive into the unusual universe of BIT.TRIP, now is as good a time as any. BIT.TRIP RUN is available for four dollars at the time of this review.