The Bit.Trip series from mini-studio Gajin Games had something of a shot in the arm this year with the release of the simply brilliant Bit.Trip Runner 2. It would seem that Gajin are keen to capitalise on the Bit.Trip love that is floating around all over the place by re-releasing an older game to a new, far wider, audience.
Bit.Trip Fate was originally a WiiWare game and, until now, you could only play it on Wii. Its release on PC brings with it a HD overhaul and… well, that’s it. It is exactly the same game in every way other than the increase in pixel count. Only question is: is it any good?
Bit.Trip games tend to be quirky takes on a chosen genre; in this case, the classic bullet hell shoot em’ up. Here, you control series hero Commander Video in a side-scrolling shooter, taking on the world’s bullet-crazy enemies and a variety of increasingly insane bosses. You have the choice of using a keyboard and mouse, or, as I did, the controller of your choice, with which the game becomes a twin-stick shooter. Think Geometry Wars. Only on rails. With better music. And much, much harder.
With the left stick you guide Commander Video left and right along a set path (a line that flows across the screen), while the right stick handles all the shooting. The fact that Commander Video is confined to a set path adds a layer of complexity not often seen in your run-of-the-mill shmup. You must find a point in the path that won’t get Commander Video killed as a hailstorm of bullets heads his way, which is a simple idea that works rather well.
Killing on-screen enemies is rewarded with a red Plus symbol, while collecting them will boost Commander Video’s HP – the more you collect, the harder Commander Video becomes. Awesome! Mega! Ultra! Extra! SUPER! exclaims the in-game announcer as you fly through the ranks, increasing the amount of damage you can take and your weaponry at the same time. This is another area where Fate differs from the traditional shmup: you have health. While Commander Video is still a very fragile beast, the game does have a soft edge. Well, it does at first.
Bit.Trip Fate is a difficult game. The second level is named “Patience”, hinting at the virtue you will need to have if you are to get through it. Level One? Bah! You aced level one, bring on Level Two! And then, while battling an abundance of bullets, it hits you: this game is not easy. You make it to the boss; it slaughters you. You want Level One back.
The visuals on offer here stick to the Gajin formula of creating a new game on old principles. It’s an 8-bit universe that feels like it’s been dragged off of an old CRT screen and into the real world. While playing it, I caught myself musing aloud how pretty it is, and I can’t think of a better way to sum it up, really.
Fate, like its Bit.Trip brethren, has an underlying addiction to rhythm. Here, the music is affected by how well you are doing; as you rise up the HP levels the music intensifies. On the Boss stage, as you are down to your last level, the music stops, stripping you bare, leaving you open. Panic ensues. You die. You start all over again. Patience. Patience…
VERDICT: Bit.Trip Fate is a welcome addition to the Bit.Trip universe that you can already explore on Steam. Shoot em’ Up fans will love it, and I have a feeling newcomers to the genre will be drawn in by its stylish looks and awesome soundtrack. Whack it on and take it for a spin – Bit.Trip Fate is another cracker.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.