In BitTrip Runner, Commander Video constantly runs forward. Your job is to jump, slide, kick and block at the right time to maneuver through the level and reach the finishing line. During the initial levels, you will be jumping over holes and simple obstacles, but as you progress, new types of obstacles will be introduced.
If you hit an obstacle, you are sent back to the beginning of the level; there are no check-points in the levels, even the longer ones. This means that later on in the game, there's plenty of rage-inducing moments, but that's just part of the game.
In a game like this, it's important to put the emphasis on reactions, meaning the player will be determined to play on when they die. Die cheaply due to something popping out of nowhere, then it's going to be frustrating. With BitTrip runner, I found plenty of levels to be too easy, but then there were plenty of annoying moments where it does throw something unexpected at you, leading to cheap deaths.
Another important aspect is the clarity. You don't expect or demand a graphical spectacle when it comes to games like this, but what you've got is a bit of a mixed bag. It's got a pixelated look but in a 3D space. There's a lot of detail put into the backgrounds, but it becomes too much; it's quite hard to tell what is the foreground and what is the background. When there's a moving object coming towards you which you have to dodge, and several moving objects in the background which you can ignore, it just becomes a bit of a mess. This is exacerbated by the fact that it's so bright and colourful that it becomes a strain on your eyes and brain. Initially, I could only play it in short bursts before I couldn't physically play it. In the 3rd world, the backgrounds were more basic, but some obstacles were still hard to see.
There are three worlds of 12 levels each, with a boss battle at the end of the worlds. A major sticking point for players is the last few levels of world 1. Failing to overcome these levels means that the rest of the game is blocked off. The annoying thing is that it's one of those games where the next batch of levels are far easier than the levels that you were stuck on, so it's not exactly a smooth learning curve at this point.
Each stage contains two types of items, Gold Bars and Plus Signs. Gold Bars increase your points, and during the initial levels, they are cleverly placed to help you overcome obstacles. As the game progresses, they become challenges, requiring you to perform extra jumps, or cut jumps closer to danger in order to collect them. If you grab them all in one run, you play a special bonus stage to further increase your score. The second type of item is a Plus Sign which increases the points multiplier and also increases the intensity of the music.
The game is often described as a rhythm game and players stress the importance of the music. I find in rhythm games, your ability and fun drastically decreases when you mute the game, but it wasn't so in this one. After a few levels, I quickly lost interest in the music and muted it without finding any difference in gameplay.
Overall, I felt frustrated with BitTrip Runner. The graphical style is a huge negative in the game. With a clearer graphical style, the game would be more pleasant to play, but I also reckon it would make the game easier. I felt during the first couple of worlds there were only 5 or so levels that were actually enjoyable, but the final world was a large improvement. The bad thing with the third world is that there's plenty of blatant cut-and-pasting of sections between levels and within them.