The reveal of Bit.Trip Presents: Runner2 was a bit of a surprise to me. Gaijin Games’ head honcho Alex Neuse assured me that the studio’s next game would be “something totally different” from the Bit.Trip series way back at PAX Prime 2010. Also, the story concluded rather soundly with the release of Bit.Trip FLUX. Despite these details, it’s hard to complain about there being another Bit.Trip game. After playing the first 19 levels at PAX East, I can safely say we seem to be in for the good kind of trip.
Gaijin hasn’t done much to alter the core formula of what was the most successful game in the series with its sequel. It’s an auto-scrolling platformer with a small plethora of moves to remember. What begins as simply jumping over pits eventually evolves into kicking through obstacles and sliding under ledges. The demo build builds your arsenal slowly, teaching the player the tricks they’ll need to survive one at a time. Anyone who has played a Bit.Trip before can tell you that the later levels can be complex and challenging, sometimes maddening, so this gentle curve is welcome.
Runner2 isn’t just more of the same, though. Some of the core moves have new twists that add to Commander Video’s repertoire. You can now jump while sliding and kick while jumping, which were sorely missed in the original. The level design will expand to include these wrinkles as well. There are new moves as well, though their functionality isn’t finalized. The Commander can now dance for point bonuses and a timed-button pressing minigame is housed within Sonic the Hedgehog-esque loops.
Speaking of the levels, the design here seems as solid as it was in the original game. Timing your jumps and landings is paramount if you’re to collect all of the gold spread out along your path. One nice addition is unlockable paths. Finding a key and walking through a gigantic lock will open a more challenging route. Completing this path will reward the player with more points. Levels now include checkpoints as well, but a point bonus awaits those who jump over the bar and eschew the comfort of a safety net. Failure results in a warp back to the beginning of the level, but that’s living by the sword for you. Collecting all of the gold and crosses grants access to a post-level cannon minigame where you fire Commander Video into a gigantic bullseye. Gaijin’s Neuse told me that this should provide some sort of score variance for the leaderboards in the final version, but they haven’t solidified the mechanic as of yet.
Runner2 will have five worlds with 20 levels each. Expect to conquer several bosses as well. Those who found the original too hard may be happy to hear there will be three difficulty levels to choose from. The game is expected to be released in October on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, though other platforms (including the Wii U) are in consideration.