Game Review: BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (PS Vita)

Runner 2 PS Vita

BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a rhythm and music based action platform game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Bit.Trip Runner 2 is the sequel to the Independent Games Festival (IGF) and IndieCade award winning Bit.Trip Runner.

Bit.Trip Runner 2 is an endless runner game that sees you jumping, sliding, trace looping, vaulting and kicking your way past enemies and obstacles to reach the end of each level. The game features five worlds containing a total of 125 levels including boss battles and you will certainly be learning new skills and abilities as you progress further through the game. There is an interesting difficulty curve that you can falter at any given time as a single mistake, such as miss-timing a jump, slide, vault or kick will result in you being transported back to your latest checkpoint if you are lucky and if you are not so lucky to have reached a checkpoint yet, then you will be transported back to the very beginning of the level.

There are different ways to complete each level as you can complete the level with a points score, but without a grade if you have failed to collect all of the pick-ups throughout the level or alternatively you can complete the level having collected all of the gold bars and Mode Up collectibles to achieve a perfect grade. If you achieve a perfect grade, then you will be loaded into a cannon and if you are able to time the firing of the cannon precisely to be able to hit the bullseye on the bonus board, then you will achieve a perfect + grade. You can also achieve a triple perfect + grade for each level by earning a perfect + grade across all three difficulty levels for the same level.

There is a boss battle at the end of each world were you will find yourself having to outrun the boss, while jumping, sliding and taking a variety of evasive manoeuvres to avoid various projectiles that are produced by the boss in an attempt to trip you up and send you back to the start of the boss battle.

There are secrets and unlockables in the game that you will need to look out for, such as collecting retro game cartridges to unlock retro challenges; collecting treasure chests to unlock costumes for each of the eight playable characters with seven of those eight characters being further unlockables; and collecting hidden keys to unlock key vaults, resulting in gaining access to new areas.

There are nine sets of challenges that will reward you for successfully completing them with the nine categories including: score; jump; attack; avoid; gold; explore; difficulty; dance; and perfect. Each challenge gets harder as you progress with the perfect example being the score challenges as the first score challenge tasks you to achieve a total score of 1,000,000 points, while the second score challenge requires a total of 5,000,000 points and this increases for each and every challenge all the way through to a total score of 200,000,000 points for the tenth score challenge. You can view the full set of challenges in the rewards menu with ten challenges available per set totalling to ninety challenges.

The stats screen is quite a beneficial feature that allows you to evaluate your progression through the game with analysis covering everything from the total distance you have run to how many objects you have kicked and from the best time you have taken to complete a level to the worst time you have taken to complete a level with over fifty in-depth statistics available.

The humour of the game revolves around the cutscenes and their narration by Charles Martinet. Every time you start the game up you are presented with an advert of who is sponsoring that particular episode of the game, such as Unkle Dill’s Dill Garden Sausages. Beyond the adverts; the tone of the narration during the cutscenes brings the story to life in an amusing way, which brings further charm to the game and you will find it quite often bringing a smile or laughter.

There is downloadable content available for Bit.Trip Runner 2 in the form of the Good Friends Character Pack, which is available from the European PlayStation Store for just £1.59. The Good Friends Character Pack features a host of familiar characters to control, such as Josef from Machinarium; Spelunky Guy from Spelunky; Raz from Psychonauts; Dr. Fetus from Super Meat Boy; Quote from Cave Story; and Invisible CommanderVideo. The Good Friends Character Pack is a great idea as it provides further replayability for the game to anyone who likes any of the characters and their respective games.

The controls are well mapped to the face buttons, although there are no control schemes that involve the touch screen, rear touch pad or gyroscopic motion controls, which would have provided great alternative control schemes. The face button controls include pressing X to jump; holding X to perform a gliding jump that will enable you to clear longer distances between platforms; square to kick an object or enemy; R to dance, which is an ability that you will unlock at the start of the second world and will increase your score for each time you execute a dance move; circling the right analogue stick to perform trace looping; moving the left analogue stick upwards or pressing up on the d-pad to perform a spring vault over a large object or enemy; moving the left analogue stick downwards or pressing down on the d-pad to perform a slide underneath enemies that are at mid-range height hovering above the ground; moving the left analogue stick to the right or pressing right on the d-pad to perform a block; and pressing start to display the pause menu.

The graphics are a modern take on retro with a graphical art style that fuses the two together perfectly. The foreground and background have a great depth to them that you will not find in every platform game, which really establishes the quality of the graphics and the variation of the environments. The retro version of each level looks very accurate to what you would anticipate from a retro game that you would play on an Amiga console.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface that is navigated by the face buttons with support for the left analogue stick and directional pad across various menus such as the main menu, online leaderboards, rewards menu, stats menu and options menu, although there is no support for navigation via the right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad. The background of the main menu screen features the lead character CommanderVideo running past various objects and scenery including a flag pole with a banner that reads “Bit.Trip Presents…” and another flag pole with a banner that reads “Runner 2”.

The audio has clearly received a major amount of focus as the music, sound effects and narration are all of exceptional quality. The music is perfectly timed with the positioning of pick-ups within each of the levels that will make an incidental sound that really gives the music an extra spark and helps to lift the mood of the game, while the sound effects are mostly tied to the music; there are some additional sound effects, such as when you have reached a checkpoint or when you have successfully navigated a trace wheel. The cutscenes are narrated by the veteran voice-over artist Charles Martinet who is well known for his voice-over work for various Mario characters, such as Mario, Luigo and Wario and Waluigi in every Mario related game since 1995, alongside various voice-overs in many more games, such as Orvus in Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time; Gouji Rokkaku in Jet Set Radio Future and various voices in Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast.

The trophy list includes sixteen trophies with fifteen bronze trophies and one gold trophy. There are a few trophies that you will earn naturally by progressing through the game, such as the five bronze trophies for completing each world, alongside most likely earning the Jogging Along bronze trophy for completing thirty rewards and the possibility of earning the Running Steady bronze trophy for completing sixty rewards in your first playthrough too, while the Dancing Fool bronze trophy for dancing 100 times will easily be earned during the second world when you unlock the ability to dance as you are running. There are some harder trophies, such as the Hardcore bronze trophy for completing every level on the rather hard difficulty level; the Perfectionist bronze trophy for getting one perfect run in each level by collecting all of the gold bars and the four Mode Up collectibles; the Better Than Perfect bronze trophy for getting one perfect + run in each world by following up on the requirements of a perfect run by hitting the bullseye of the target when you are shot out of the cannon at the end of the level; with trophies varying in difficulty between that and the Triple Perfectionist bronze trophy for getting three triple perfect + runs in each world across three difficulty levels. The hardest trophy of the entire game is certainly the Perfect Perfectionist gold trophy for getting a triple perfect + in every level. I would estimate depending upon skill, your ability to perfectly time your jumps, slides and general movements and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around twenty hours to 100% the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels including: quite easy, just right and rather hard. You can switch between any of the three difficulty levels for any level that you have unlocked. The difference between the difficulty levels is very clear with many more enemies usually placed before and after a trace wheel, jump or slide and what appears to be a slightly faster running pace from CommanderVideo. If you feel like challenging yourself after you have learned the controls; adjust the difficulty level to rather hard and see how well you can perform on each level.

There are no online multiplayer features, although there are online leaderboards. The online leaderboards focuses on friend scores, your score and top scores with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and overall score with the positioning of each player based upon the overall score that has been accumulated throughout the game.

The replayability of Bit.Trip Runner 2 is provided by the three difficulty levels and the difference they bring to the complexity of each level as they will certainly have you playing each level at least three times, which makes a huge difference as there are a total of 125 levels including boss battles and secret levels. The unlockable content such as seven additional characters and plenty of costumes also provides a sense of reward for overcoming some tricky levels, while the rewards feature is another area that adds even more strength to the replayability of the game with a total of ninety challenges. There is at least twenty hours worth of gameplay spread across all of the features in the game, which will definitely have you returning to the game for quite a while.

Overall, Bit.Trip Runner 2 is oozing with charm and character that will draw you in and never let go. The game can be difficult at times, but it is accessible to a point that if you do not prefer the harder difficulty levels; you can reduce it significantly and it is that level of accessibility that enables you to play in short bursts or long periods depending upon your schedule. Bit.Trip Runner 2 hosts a wealth of content, accessibility and replayability, which makes it a must purchase for only £5.49.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
  • Publisher: Gaijin Games
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 567Mb


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