Beat. Core. Void. Runner. Fate. Flux. The six games in the Bit.Trip series may sound like word salad to the uninitiated, but over the past two and a half years, these games have charted a unique course on the Wii Shop Channel. Each downloadable entry featured a different strain of simple gameplay that quickly grew into complexity to present a formidable challenge. These diverse challenges were bound together by an artful 8-bit aesthetic and dynamic soundtracks that intertwined with your actions to create an engrossing musical experience. Now all six games are available on one disc in Bit.Trip Complete, a compilation that includes a number of new features that make each game more accessible, more challenging, and more engrossing. With a bonus soundtrack CD and a bargain price, Bit.Trip Complete is an impressive example of a compilation done right.
The big new addition in Bit.Trip Complete is difficulty modes. Though the Bit.Trip games all have very simplistic gameplay and minimal controls, they quickly build to put forth a steep challenge that can be insurmountable to all but the most determined players. With the implementation of an easy difficulty mode, Bit.Trip Complete lessens the punishment for mistakes and makes it harder to plunge into the dreaded black-and-white view that tells you failure is near. With the exception of Bit.Trip Runner (in which the tantalizing gold bars are removed), the levels themselves remain unchanged. This lets you progress further in each game and experience the musical and visual variation of each level without climbing the exponential slope of difficulty. Furthermore, easy mode stops short of making the games too easy, preserving the tension and satisfaction of a challenge confronted and completed.
Easy mode is an elegant solution to the difficulty problem, but if you relish the challenge, the new hard mode makes you work for your success. You can flaunt your victories on online leaderboards that are divided up by game and by difficulty level, though you need to crack the top 10 to see your initials in lights, and any chart-toppers you earned in the individual games won't appear here. Furthermore, though they are fairly unpopulated as of now, it's easy to foresee a future in which a bunch of elite players (or identical maximum scores) crowd others out, rendering these leaderboards all but useless. There are also 20 new challenges for each game. These are short gameplay segments that test your skills in some playful and fiendish ways. As the name suggests, they can be challenging, but their short length makes a trial-and-error approach much less onerous than it is in some of the actual games. It isn't just about survival here, though; you must perfect each one to complete it. It's very satisfying when you finally nail one you've been struggling with, and you can get some interesting unlockables for your troubles.
These bonuses range from audio to video to text to images. Some are mere curiosities (especially the odd videos), but the notes on each game are actually very intriguing. The enigmatic cutscenes featuring the inscrutable Commander Video have always hinted at story themes, but these new notes give you something concrete to cling to when playing each game. Granted, the context is still fairly abstract, but it's great to have a window into the creative process behind these inventive games.
The games themselves remain as appealing and addictive as ever. In Bit.Trip Beat, you slide a paddle up and down the left side of the screen by tilting the Wii Remote. The goal is to bounce the projectiles that come at you back to the other side, sort of like an intense Pong practice session. Things start off simply, but you soon encounter increasingly complex patterns and trajectories that stretch the limits of your tilting abilities. In Bit.Trip Core, however, motion controls are left behind in favor of the precision of button pressing. Here you must eliminate similarly mischievous projectiles by shooting lasers in the four directions of the D-pad. Moving into Bit.Trip Void, you encounter the most freedom of movement you ever get in a Bit.Trip game. Your job is to steer a black sphere around the screen, grabbing the black bits that come your way but avoiding the white bits. The more bits you absorb, the bigger your sphere grows. The bigger your sphere, the better your score, but you frequently have to manually downgrade to your original size to avoid white bits.
Bit.Trip Runner puts you in control of the bipedal Commander Video for the first time. His enthusiasm for the platformer experience is such that he doesn't stop running, and it's up to you to jump, slide, kick, and block your way past obstacles, all while grabbing gold and enjoying an increasingly complex soundtrack. Bit.Trip Fate continues the Commander's exploits in an on-rails shooter in which you slide back and forth on the rail to avoid enemies and projectiles while pointing the Wii Remote to blast your foes and collect power-ups. The final game in the series, Bit.Trip Flux, harks back to Bit.Trip Beat, once again giving you paddle control and introducing a host of new patterns and obstacles. Though each individual game is distinct, they are all banded together by blocky, colorful visuals that evoke the era of 8-bit gaming. The dynamic soundtracks share a similar retro aesthetic, each changing and evolving along with your gameplay and providing an absorbing and enriching musical experience.
Bit.Trip Complete brings this diverse and delightful series together in a package that offers tangible improvements over each individual game. The new challenges and unlockables offer something intriguing for those who have played the games before, while the new difficulty modes make it easier to get more out of each game without compromising the engrossing blend of music and gameplay that makes the series so special. The added elements complement the original games and allow you to enjoy them like never before, making Bit.Trip Complete a shining example of how a thoughtful compilation can enhance an entire series.