Bit.Trip Core Hands-On

The second game in this wonderfully retro rhythm-shooter series is due to arrive on WiiWare this summer, and we've got hands-on impressions.

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Released this past March, Bit.Trip Beat was a game that seemed tailor-made for the WiiWare service. Its intentionally lo-fi sound and stylized pixel graphics didn't stretch the Wii's hardware, and the unique, rhythm-shooter style of gameplay made clever (if subtle) use of the system's motion controls. But there's no denying that Bit.Trip Beat was hard--really, really hard. Thankfully, the brief duration and suitably low price point made sure that its vindictive difficulty level didn't wear out its welcome. Now Bit.Trip Core is right around the corner, another charming but thoroughly difficult shooter in this newfound series that will test the limits of your love for old-school gameplay.

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The big difference in Bit.Trip Core is the new control scheme. Whereas the first game had a bit of Pong thrown into it with the way you'd move a paddle up and down on the left edge of the screen to hit objects zooming in from the right, Core keeps you planted firmly in the middle of the screen in the form of a plus shape. This time, you'll have targets flying by from various combinations of up, down, left, and right--starting as straight paths early on and getting progressively more unpredictable. In short, you're glued to the middle of a busy intersection.

Instead of moving a paddle up and down to hit the targets, you'll fire a beam of light at them as they pass you by. You hold a direction on the directional pad of the Wii Remote to highlight either up, down, right, or left, and then hit the 2 button to fire. There's no motion control this time around; it's all done with the buttons on the Wii Remote. The benefit is that your targeting is a lot more precise, but the drawback is that this game is even harder than the first one, if you can believe that. When you've got targets coming by from every directional combination, things get insane. And just like the first game, these targets often wreak havoc on your expectations by swirling around, stopping in midmovement, and basically taunting you to hit them.

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But the payoff is that shooting these targets produces a variety of 8-bit sounds that fit harmoniously with the bare-bones electronic beat emanating from the game. When you're in a groove, you really feel like you're making that music yourself. It's easier to get entranced than it was in the first game because you've got the tactile feedback of hitting a button to the beat rather than tilting the remote. But with targets approaching from many new directions, it's also much harder to get back into that groove once you fall out of it. Thankfully, there's now a one-use screen-clear ability and a level-progress meter to lend a (slightly) helping hand.

As long as you've got the patience to master the patterns, Bit.Trip Core looks like a no-brainer for fans of the first game. You can expect to see it arrive on WiiWare this summer.

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