Before I purchased my Wii U, the one game that had me excited most of all near launch was Bit Trip Presents: Runner 2…Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. I adore the WiiWare Bit Trip games, and having a sequel to my personal favorite in the series on an HD console was enough to make me scream in delight. It’s always nice to play a game that exceeds your expectations and delivers a fun experience, and that’s just what Runner 2 did.
The story starts up immediately after the first Runner game; Commander Video and his friends are flying through the universe when Timbletot fires a beam that transports Commander Video to an alternate dimension of extraordinary worlds and bizarre creatures. Like all the games before it, Runner 2 does very little in the story department on the surface. At the beginning of each world there will be a cutscene to show off the new environment, but other then that the story is left to the imagination and what you believe everything symbolizes (I know I have my crazy theories).
Of course, if you\’re buying Runner 2 then you\’re obviously here for the gameplay and boy is it addicting. Runner 2 is a side scroller in which your character runs automatically to the right, it’s the players job to jump, attack, dodge or block their way to the exit. The game scrolls at a moderately fast pace but never feels like you didn\’t have enough time to react to the intrusions. If an enemy is on the ground, jump over it. If an enemy is in the air, press down on the D-pad to slide underneath it. The challenge of the game comes from chaining the commands together, often times jumping and having to press down in mid air to slide as soon as the character hits the floor. It can be difficult at times but completing a hard level while pressing buttons in rapid succession is really gratifying.
Throughout the levels are optional gold pieces to collect, and grabbing them all unlocks a bonus mini game in which you fire the character out of a canon and try to hit a bulls-eye for more points. A new addition in the levels are cartridges that unlock retro 8-bit levels for more gold pieces to collect. Their secret placement can be completely obviously or downright crafty. Finally, levels often contain treasure chests that unlock bonus costumes for Commander Video and the other unlockable characters. For an automatic side scroller, there is a lot to uncover and unlock.
Levels are expertly crafted with alternate exits that open up secret levels, all with three difficulty settings that change things up considerably; almost to the point of playing a new level. Much of the gameplay remains intact from the first Runner but is expanded on for more variety, even simple additions like the ability to kick while sliding opens up a ton of possibilities. With all the available moves it could have been overwhelming but thankfully the game introduces its mechanics at a fair pace and by the end of world 5 you\’ll be jumping, sliding, kicking and grinding on rails with the best of them. One small issue I have with the game is the camera, it\’ll zoom in and out sometimes which can be a bit disorientating and that may lead to hitting an enemy.
What I absolutely love about Runner 2 is how welcoming it is to any gamer. One of the biggest criticisms of the original Bit Trip games were how unforgiving they could be. Runner 2, by contrast, is as difficult or easy as you want it to be. Having trouble on a particular level? Change the difficulty setting to “easy” before selecting the level. Too easy? Try “hard” mode, skip the checkpoints and try to collect all the gold pieces. It perfectly welcomes new players to the Bit Trip franchise while not forgetting those who loved the brutal difficulty of past games. Even better, the game doesn\’t roll its eyes at you for dropping to “easy” mode. It’s not Contra 4 in which the climax is withheld from you unless you play on at least “normal”; it’s not Ninja Gaiden, who gives you a pink sword and constantly reminding you it’s too hard. Runner 2 is happy to be played by anyone and welcomes all players regardless of skill.
The cherry on this cake is the amazing presentation. Many people were skeptical of the updated visuals, but those worries should be put to rest as this game is gorgeous. Colors are vibrant and characters have smooth animations. Each world is bizarre for different reasons and contains a great deal of personality. The backgrounds on some stages are memorable, such as one certain level that features a big number of UFOs. Though sometimes the background can be too busy for its own good, I sometimes found myself wanting to stare off into space and as a result I missed an obstacle and had to restart the level.
Of course, what would a good music game be without good music? Runner 2 features some fantastic pieces that will be stuck in your head after the controller is put down. I found myself replaying some levels for the sole purpose of hearing certain tunes. There are some remixes of old songs from series past, but the new stuff here is great.
To say Runner 2 succeeds in creating a great follow-up to Bit Trip Runner would be selling it short. This game shatters all expectations and sets out what it wanted to do perfectly. The only flaws I found can be fixed with a patch (such as freezing the console every time I want to quit) or is just negligible, and what we\’re then left with is a fantastic experience that does its heritage proud while expanding into so much more. Few games can claim to execute its potential flawlessly, and Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien can claim that fame.