Bit.Trip Core Review: What Rhythm Games Would Have Been Like On The 2600
“Keep it simple, stupid.” It’s a phrase that’s been guiding the way for innovation for many, many years, and sadly, it’s also one that’s frequently overlooked when it comes to video games. Fortunately, the Bit.Trip series from Aksys Games is a new franchise that is looking to define itself with that exact phrase, and its latest entry, “Bit.Trip Core” manages to keep very true to that mindset.
Building on the fundamental graphics and story of the first game in the series, “Bit.Trip Beat,” “Core” changes up the gameplay mechanics and over all style of gameplay, opting for a different experience altogether. Where “Beat” had you rotating the Wii remote to control a “Pong”-esque paddle, “Core” employs no motion controls, and forces you to rely entirely on your sense of rhythm, and hand-eye-coordination as a road to success. Instead of lining up paddles to bounce blocks back to the other side of the screen, “Bit Trip Core” has you timing your button presses to coordinate with blocks as they pass by you. Blocks appear from all angels on the screen, and as they cross the center of each quadrant on the screen you need to press the corresponding direction on the D-pad, as well as the “2” button. It boils down to what could have been a very early predecessor to the modern day rhythm game. While it may seem like a simple and easy mechanic, it becomes a challenge very quickly.
Much like “Beat,” “Core” employs a unique element in the game to let the player know how well, or poorly, they are playing. If you manage to hit number notes in succession, you’ll be rewarded with an upgrade to your level, shifting to the “top screens” to see a more colorful, and better sounding game screen. However, if you manage to miss too many blocks (and I promise you, you will) your game gets downgraded to a black and while “bottom screen” that doesn’t even have sound - it entirely relies on a blip from the Wiimotes speaker. The better you do, the less likely you are to head to a black and white hell.
In fact, one of the biggest draws, or turn offs, of “Bit.Trip Core” is the level of difficulty that it offers. This isn’t your average, middle of the road “everybody wins” kind of game. It’s modeled after those old-school arcade games that were designed to gobble quarter after quarter as they slowly ate away your lunch money. This game’s difficulty could drive even the most dedicated player mad with frustration, but, at the same time, when you finally do beat one of the game’s few levels you’re rewarded with a true feeling of accomplishment. Oh how I miss the “good ole days.”
While “Core” may not have the licensed music to back it up, much like its earlier counterpart, there is a pretty amazing, quasi-interactive chiptune soundtrack to keep your ears delighted as you progress though the games small (very small) handful of levels. All that effort really makes a difference once you start playing, and realize that the only way you’re going to make it past the first level is if you listen to the music, and sync up your button presses with the beats. It’s the perfect mix of background music and gameplay mechanic.
Should the game’s difficulty be a bit too much for you, “Bit.Trip Core” offers a four-player co-op mode that might make things a bit easier, or harder, depending on whom you’re playing with. The multiplayer mode allows for players to play simultaneously on the same screen, attempting to hit as many blocks as possible, so, if you happen to have four players, each person could take their own section of the screen, and go to town. Who knows, you might actually be able to make it to the second level.
“Bit.Trip Core” is just the second of six games that will eventually be part of the “Bit.Trip” series, and while it looks like all the games will most likely have a consistent art style, they will all be their own, unique games. Hopefully the entire franchise will continue to offer quality games with a retro feel, that focus on aspirations of a better high score instead of quantity of content for their replayability factor. Both “Bit.Trip” games offer great pick-up-and-play capabilities and it’s looking like they could, in fact, end up being the best “party” games on the Wii, ya know, as long as your party doesn’t mind a little challenge. From here on out, there’s a very good chance that whenever one of the “Bit.Trip” games come out, it’s a good time to dust off your Wii, and blow 600 points on a new reason to throw your Wiimote at your wall - only this time it’s out of some weird kind of satisfying frustration. In an attempt to take my own advice, and keep it simple; “Bit.Trip Core” is good, and totally worth a play as long as you’re up for the challenge. (Surprisingly, that wasn’t that hard - I should take my own advice more.)
“Bit.Trip Core” was developed by Gaijin Games and published by Aksys Games for the Nintendo Wii via the WiiWare service on July 6, 2009.