8.5

Bit.Trip Beat's a refreshing take on an old classic.

Anyone notice the recent trend of reviving old games recently? Particularly in the downloadable games space? I have. Heck, I've played quite a few of 'em, too. And they were all great. But none of 'em have done anything close to what Bit.Trip Beat's done. What it is, is basically heavily modified version of Pong, with a few rhythm game elements thrown in. It may sound odd, but it's actually a really good game that works really well, and is simply a lot of fun to play.

Normally I'd talk about the story (if there is one) here. And while Bit.Trip Beat does have a story (or at least it seems like it does), it's so convoluted and ambiguous that it's impossible to figure out what's going on, or what it's about. I myself wasn't -- and still haven't -- been able to figure out what exactly it was about, and I doubt I ever will either. So I'd say you're better off playing it for yourself and coming up with your own story seeing as its open to interpretation and all. It's better that way. Trust me.

But enough on that. Time to move on to more important things, like the gameplay. Which is really simple. On the left side of the screen, there's a paddle -- that's you. And on the other side, there pixels called "beats" flying toward you. You're job is to knock them back using the paddle. Simple, right? Not quite. But you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was. The game starts off by going easy on ya, with beats coming in small numbers and at rather slow pace. But soon enough they'll coming at you at blistering speeds, and in large numbers, as well as going in all sorts of directions. Which forces you to be very quick and precise with your movements. And in case you haven't noticed, that's where the game gets a little less simple, and a whole lot harder.
Though that isn't the only thing that makes it difficult. The controls, and visuals (more on that later) also contribute to the difficulty as well. But in the formers case, it only does that during the first few hours of gameplay, as it's control style can take a while to get used to. But once you do it works great. The paddle is controlled by tilting the Wii remote forward and backward while holding it sideways. And at first, you'll be missing beats while you get used to the odd controls, but soon enough, you'll be hitting 'em with ease.

Getting back to the gameplay, one interesting thing is that upon hitting beats a note of music is played and is added to the tune playing in the background. This is where the rhythm elements come in. As the beats are placed in a very specific order that makes the notes the beats make blend harmoniously with the music, making for some very catchy and generally great sounding music. The Mega mode further adds to it as well, by making it a bit more upbeat in some cases, and adds more notes.

Speaking of which, Mega mode is activated when you hit enough beats to fill the Mega bar at the top of the screen. What it does is increase the amount of points you get from hitting beats by, once again, filing the bar at the top of the screen. As the aforementioned amount of points awarded are increased. Which when done in conjunction with making a combo of beats -- which is done by hitting 'em without missing one -- further increases the points awarded for hitting beats. This is crucial to getting a high-score -- which is where the game gets its replay value. As the addictive nature of achieving a high-score will keep you coming back for more.

Though had leaderboards been included, that would have been even better. As getting to the top of the offline high-score table isn't quite as satisfying as getting to the top of a leaderboard. As the sense of competition isn't present without it. It's a little disappointing that it was excluded, but it isn't a huge issue. The bigger issue at hand with the game is the lack of explanation of what certain game elements do. What the Mega and Nether bars do aren't ever explained to the player, but the latter one's purpose comes clear pretty quickly. What that one does is make the visuals take on a black and white look (which makes the game look identical to Pong) when you miss to many beats. And while those things in particular not being explained to you can make it a tad confusing, it's no where near as bad as how it handles the method to unlocking the two levels that can be unlocked. See, when you get to a level it becomes unlocked, but only until you turn the game off. At which point, it becomes locked again. The only way to unlock them permanently is to get on to the high-score table. But the game never tells you that, so it can be very frustrating to unlock another level only to lose it because you didn't fulfill the unknown requirement to unlocking it.

To go along with the retro-style gameplay, Bit.Trip Beat has a pixelated visual style that looks sort of similar to an 8-bit game -- albeit with a bit of three-dimensional graphics thrown in. The visuals are a mix of both three and two-dimensional graphics -- with 2D in the foreground, and 3D objects that have a pixelated look to 'em in the background. The former is where all the gameplay happens, and the latter is just a bunch of various environments, and objects moving around. Which, while they look good, can be pretty distracting at times. Which would be a problem, but it feels like the visuals are meant to do that in order to further increase the difficulty level (which it does). The various visual elements all look good, and fit the style perfectly, and give the game a rather unique look.

I know I touched on the audio a little earlier, but I'm gonna bring it up again -- but just for a bit. The game features three songs (aka, levels), which all sound nice. And the chiptune music really fits the style, and the way it's integrated with the gameplay is interesting.

Despite a couple small issues, Bit.Trip Beat is a fast, and fun mix between Pong and a rhythm game. The game's high difficulty level will scare some off, but for those seeking a challenge (or you're like me and like odd little games like this), Bit.Trip Beat is a must buy.

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