The Bad: Not enough unlockable characters, a few levels were hampered with design flaws
8-bit style games are growing in popularity and Bit.Trip has been delivering excellent games for quite a while now. Runner was my favorite in the series but was relentlessly hard, even early on. Runner 2 fixes these issues by making levels more fluid and by adding a checkpoint halfway through. The game is mostly the same, but with added obstacles and better graphics.
The game plays roughly the same as the last one. Watch Commander Video and his pals run to the right while you jump kick and dance your way to the end of the level. Some added obstacles are a four-way diamond that you need to press the corresponding button when you get to each corner. Another obstacle is a loop-de-loop that you use the right analog stick to follow your character as he runs inside. Various obstacles are introduced as the game progresses and by the end you need to be quick and have all these memorized as soon as they pop up. I actually never felt overwhelmed by having to remember too many abilities, it felt just right. Levels have you ducking, jumping, using your shield to block flying blocks, kicking stop signs, and even kicking some in the air as well as while sliding. The abilities are timed to a catchy 8-bit soundtrack that is even better and richer than the last game. As you move along there are gold bars to collect as well as red plus blocks that add track to the music as you move along.
These elements are what everyone loved in the first game and they stayed in this one, but the game is just more forgiving. Honestly it was more fun because I never even got to the second level in the first game. Runner 2 features bosses at the end of each level that are pretty fun and very challenging. There's a new path feature for levels that change the difficulty depending on which path you choose. Red and green arrows will point to which path is which, the red path usually has hidden chests that unlock costumes as well as Retro Cartridges. These 25 retro levels are actually in 8-bit like they were ripped straight from an NES game. Very charming and fun to play.
You are also scored by doing everything in the game. Dancing is one ability that adds 2,000 points with each move. I just found the whole game very addicting and couldn't put the controller down. Rarely did I find a spot where I was stuck and even rarer were occasion where the game's own design got in the way. I would fly by something so fast that I would die several times before realizing what was going on and what I had to do. The whole game is just super fun and challenging and very rewarding. If you get all the gold bars and the 4 red plus signs in the level you get to shoot yourself out of a cannon at a target to get a Perfect+ score. Very challenging but fun.
The graphics look amazing with each of the 5 levels being unique. My favorite was The Bit.Trip which was level 5. You can see other Bit.Trip games being played in the background as you run along. My biggest disappointment were the lack of extra characters. There are 5, but what about Super Meat Boy and other characters from the last game? I wanted more honestly. The PC version at least gets a little extra flair with depth of field and slightly better lighting effects. This is just one artistically stunning game.
Overall, Runner 2 keeps what everyone loved in the last game and adds a lot more depth and more layers of fun while being more forgiving. There are lots to collect and a ton of challenges to complete while you play. There are a few levels that were hampered by their own design flaws, and I just wish there were more unlockable characters.