This game is a side-scrolling platformer. Nothing revolutionary by any means. Gaijin, however, in their brilliance, has found a way to put quite the twist on this age-old formula.
This game, as nodded to by its price tag of 800 points (200 points higher than previous installments), this game has a tad more substance to it. It still has the same general setup, however. There are three worlds to progress through (comparable to the "songs" of previous game), and instead of playing through a whole world at one time, it is divided into twelve sections of gameplay.
Upon your first moments of gameplay, you'll notice that Commander Video begins to run…And doesn't stop. Yes, you have control over everything Commander Video does except his movement. He runs at a good pace, constantly keeping you on your toes. Commander Video can perform five actions. Jumping, sliding, kicking, springing, and blocking; each being introduced to you periodically throughout the game. As you run through the levels at high speeds, obstacles are placed in your path for you to evade. The early obstacles can merely be jumped over, but by the end of the game you will be incorporating every action mentioned above to get to the goal. Jumping over piles of rubble, sliding under machinery, kicking and shattering crystals, and so on. The combinations are extremely creative, forcing you to think quickly, as you might have to perform two to three different actions in rapid succession. And what happens if you run into one of these obstacles? There is no health or "Nether meter" anymore. When you make contact with an obstacle, back you go. That's right, to the very beginning of the stage. This might sound frustrating, but it actually lends to the game's excellence. The levels are relatively short (usually a minute or less) but the challenging level design will send you back again and again until you have every obstacle mastered. Some of the early levels might only require two to three tries, but from the near end of world one throughout the rest of the game, things get much more difficult; continuing the high difficulty of the series. Rather than becoming annoying and grueling, this is an addicting sort of difficulty, and you'll constantly want to try just one more run. A boss stage appears at the end of every world, as well, creating a fun, different diversion from the action that incorporates your moves in unique ways. Scattered throughout the levels are gold bars, which are optional to obtain. Sometimes these gold bars are placed in relatively open and easy places in your path; other times, fancy footwork will be needed to grab one. If you manage to grab every gold bar in a level (which can many times be a quite a challenge), at the end of your run you will be brought to a bonus stage or "retro challenge." These stages have Atari 2600 visuals and are rather difficult. They are not always that difficult to conquer themselves, but the great challenge that lies therein is obtaining every gold bar, which retro challenges are loaded with. What makes getting every gold bar in a retro stage so difficult is not only the tough spots some of the bars are placed, but also the fact that you only have one shot at completing these stages. Once you lose, it's on to the next level. Of course, you can access them again, but that requires replaying their corresponding normal level and obtaining every gold bar once again. This makes memorizing the layout of the run difficult. Once every level is beaten, quite the challenge is found in trying to perfect the stages-Normal, as well as bonus round.
The visuals and sound of Runner are just as excellent as the gameplay itself. The levels you dash through are accompanied by colorful and great looking backgrounds. They aren't so gaudy that they distract the player (as was a problem in Beat), but they provide nice eye-candy for a spectator. The foreground looks nice as well, with all the obstacles looking nice and sharp. Commander Video himself isn't largely animated, but well enough so that gameplay is smooth and responsive. This actually is a good thing, seeing that Commander Video is a symbol, of sorts, to the gaming days of yore. It just wouldn't fit to have him fully 3D-rendered. Obviously, music is a big part of the Bit. Trip series, and once again Gaijin has done well. The tunes consist of an upbeat pattern in the background, and the melody is made according to the level's obstacles. Overcoming an obstacle or grabbing some gold will produce a note. As in the previous games, this gives you a sense that you're the one producing the music, which is rewarding to say the least. Hearing those notes rattle off as you kick, slide, and jump in rapid succession makes you feel like you just did something pretty epic. There are large purple orbs scattered throughout the course that can be picked up like gold bars. Not only do these give a points increase but they also up the quality of the music. If you can grab all of them, you'll be rewarded with a detailed musical presentation for the rest of the level and as if it couldn't get cool enough, Commander Video will run with a giant rainbow trailing behind him. Another great musical element to note is that the chiptune band Anamanaguchi makes an appearance as two of their songs are used in-game for the main menu and the credits. Both songs are excellent, and give the game yet another awesome touch.
The game has a couple minor problems. The game's music is great, but at certain times can feel a bit slapdash. Occasionally, some of the notes that you'll hear will bring a confused expression to your face. "Did they even try to get that one right?" These moments aren't all that numerous, however. The game is a bit short. Even though this game is probably the longest of the Bit. Trip games, it still won't take all that long to complete. Replay value is posed by perfecting the stages, but as stated before, this is quite the task. After about the third level, completing both the normal stage AND the bonus stage becomes an experience that's more frustrating than enjoyable. Also, it would have been nice to get a little something for beating the game. Some alternate gameplay option, another playable character-something. As you can see, complaints are few and picky.
Bit. Trip Runner is another fantastic entry into the series. Once again Gaijin has crafted a unique and fun gameplay experience like any other. Sure, the game is a bit short, and the replay value of perfecting stages might be a bit daunting for some, but the game is simply a must play. A smile is sure to come to your face when you see the genius Gaijin has accomplished.