Games from 10 years ago tried to look as modern and graphically advanced as they could. Suddenly, 10 years on, some games have started trying to look old again, making graphics as blocky and clunky as possible to achieve the ‘retro’ appeal, which reminds gamers of the good ol’ days. A rather odd trend when viewed objectively, but who am I to pass judgement?
Now here comes BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. For future reference we shall refer to it by a partial acronym, FLORA. The Bit Trip Runner series started life as a delightful foray into our past, with deliciously blocky pixels repainting our memories of yesteryear. It countered that nod to the past with clear evidence that it was actually capable of much more if it really wanted to, with some cool effects and backgrounds. So what started life as a retro-inclined game has now suddenly taken a graphical leap into the current era with the latest version, FLORA. But does it work when you modernise something designed to be retro?
Instinctively I would have said no. But FLORA annoyingly combats that by throwing in a whole bunch of retro levels to supplement the modernised ones. So it is modern AND retro. Sneaky little game. And in fairness, the modernised graphical style is still incredibly endearing, with a whole host of new playable characters, each one with a different personality and action style. Plus the backgrounds are chock full of incidental detail and action, and there are plenty of different environmental themes to keep you interested.
To the uninitiated, the Bit Trip Runner series is a game that challenges your finger dexterity and rhythmical abilities to the absolute extreme. You play a little runner who must sprint through various levels, and must jump, duck, block, hit, leap, and dance your way through a host of levels that quickly become obscenely difficult. Reaching the end of the level is an accomplishment, then you need to do it again whilst collecting all the gold for a perfect run. Certainly not a game for button bashers, this requires an exquisite elegance as your fingers dance furiously through the various controls that will keep your little runner alive as he pelts through the various obstacles.
What has always defined the Bit Trip series though is the sound. There is a background soundtrack, and as you complete very tiny action, it adds an extra little sound to the overall harmony of the background music. So with each jump, each block, etc, the soundtrack will reflect your action. But not with the input of random noise, but as a logical musical progression. Without the sound, FLORA would be just a reasonable game, but with the full soundtrack behind every level, it transforms the entire experience into an aural delight, as well as a mission of dexterity. Plus add in the voice of Charles Martinet as a commentator (the voice of Mario, plus with over 100 game voiceovers under his belt), and things certainly are not neglected in the sound department.
FLORA is certainly is not something you’ll drift through in a few hours, or a day, or even a week. Because of the vast amount of items to collect in each level, plus multiple routes through each level, plus the additional retro levels, plus unlockable extras which unlock further goodies throughout previously played levels, you will need a significant investment of time in order to obtain everything the game has to offer. There are plenty of Steam achievements too if the base game doesn’t keep you bashing your keyboard for enough months.
The problem is, now I need to highlight any issues the game may have. Any points which might make you question whether the game is worth your wonga. But most vexingly, I simply cannot find any negative points about the game. Sure it’s kind of niche, if you target an audience that wants a challenge in dexterity. And maybe ones who are a bit slower of touch, or a tad clumsy may get a little frustrated with the precision required. But put simply, FLORA is game that has learned every lesson from its forebear, and has evolved into a compelling, polished title that will provide a worthy gaming experience for every hardcore gamer. Just prepare to fail. A lot.
This review was based on a final version of the game provided by Gajin Games