Generally speaking, I don’t spend very much time gaming on the Wii. When I do break out the ol’ Wii-mote, it’s because a game that simply must be played has come along. Bit.Trip.Beat was one of those games. It was easy to get into, but difficult to master, and incredibly fun to play. The recent sequel, Bit.Trip.Core, doesn’t share much with its predecessor, but it does take the franchise to a new level of frustrating addiction. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing.
Bit.Trip.Core is at first glance, a very simple game. You control a plus sign, which can shoot in four directions (up, down, left, right), and try to shoot down any object that flies across your path. Sounds pretty basic, right? Well it is… for about thirty seconds. It’s then that you find the techno beats are driving the flying objects with rhythm and purpose, and come to realize that there’s more to this game than just shooting tiny pixels. What actually starts out as a fairly run of the mill 8-bit shooter suddenly becomes a music game where you’re the conductor for a symphony of exploding sprites. The game scores you on combo chains, with skilled players able to link hundreds of enemy kills together while tapping their feet along with tempo changes and multiple time signatures. Players also have a single bomb per level at their disposal should they feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bogeys on the screen. Use them wisely because I can almost guarantee another overwhelming wave is on its way.
Core offers three levels of increasingly staggering difficulty, where players have one life to defeat the stage boss, and rack up a high score. Dying actually drains all color from the screen, placing the player in a silent, stark black and white version of the level they were currently playing with the ability to come back to life by putting together a decent combo chain. Like the rest of the game, it’s challenging, particularly since you’ll have to do it without the catchy beat in the background to help your timing. Those of you who find that music easily sticks in your head will have an easier go of it, but either way, you’ll find it extremely satisfying when you return to life. You can play with a friend co-operatively, but it doesn’t really change the game all that much. Both of you control the same avatar in the center of the screen; with the only difference being you can now shoot from two sides simultaneously. Just hope that your friend isn’t rhythmically challenged, otherwise you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.
Aside from the challenge Core provides, the presentation is one of the most alluring aspects of the game. The game uses simple shapes and bright colors to paint a palette that catches your eye, and is easy to navigate. The backgrounds are slightly more detailed 3-D representations of basic geometric shapes that flow seamlessly as you progress through each level. These become more intricate and lively the better you perform. The better you are at lengthy combos, the more hypnotic and involved the backdrop becomes. Trying to keep up with the frenetic patterns the game creates may seem daunting at first, but once you try each level a few times, and begin to feel the rhythm, you’ll find that you’ve essentially become an extension of the game. The music doesn’t offer a grand composition like an action game with a bigger budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s not memorable either. Sometimes the most simplistic melodies can become ingrained in your head, and that’s exactly what happens here. All these small elements come together so well, it’s hard to believe we ever moved away from the classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Arkanoid. It just goes to show that a game doesn’t need a huge budget or fancy graphics to be great; it just needs to be entertaining and fun to play.
Bit.Trip.Core is a prime example of a downloadable game done right. It’s addictive, provides a challenge, and most importantly, it’s cheap. The only downside you may find is that a single playthrough won’t take you longer than an hour. Of course, that’s if you’re skilled enough to make it through the game in one sitting. There’s incentive to play it again to try and top your old score, but without online leaderboards, there’s no way to tell if you’re really as good as you think you are. I have yet to make it past the second level, but continue to play the game simply because of the ability to pick it up and play a game in just a few minutes. Fans of Bit.Trip.Beat have probably already picked this up, but if you missed out on the first game, and were curious if this was your type of game, trust me, it is.