Review: BIT.TRIP RERUNNER
Commander Video returns for a fourth game about legging it
The whole "runner" game thingummy has its roots all the way back in the Atari 2600, with the likes of Skiing, River Raid and Keystone Kapers all showcasing elements that came to define the genre; automatic scrolling, dwindling resources and a host of obstacles to jump and duck. Indie darling Canabalt (still brilliant) popularised the style again in 2009 thanks to a propulsive Danny Baranowsky soundtrack and fantastic verisimillitude in the character movement. But the next year's BIT.TRIP RUNNER was a big'un. Its Wiiware bow was popular enough, but when it later came to all formats and was followed by two sequels (at least one of which starred "Mario Ambassador" Charles Martinet), the first of which - Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien - expanded the polish and scope to near-AAA levels. The animation was superb, the visuals great, and the scoring utterly, utterly punishing. It was, in short, very good. I didn't play Runner3 but I have no doubt that it was also pretty okay at worst.
And I forgot about Runner, because I began to associate the entire Runner genre with microtransaction-infested nonsense like Sonic Dash (I'll never get that money back), iPad games that see you swiping characters to get them through increasingly absurdly-difficult levels. Good efforts like Rayman Fiesta Run incentivised spending with permanent upgrades to trivialise the game's many challenges. Runners became the domain of the handheld, internet-connected telephone.
But now, Runner is back. BIT.TRIP RUNNER, that is, remade as BIT.TRIP RERUNNER, a mulligan, a do-over of the original WiiWare game, and remarkably similar thereto. As in, it feels pretty much the same as that first game, with none of the accoutrements added to Runner 2 or 3. Which is fair enough, for a remake. But... it sort of raises the question I try to avoid in reviews of remakes. What exactly is the point? Developers Choice Provisions had a bit of a mountain to climb here - indeed the "why did we do this" question is addressed directly in-game. Happily, this emerges as the absolute definitive BIT.TRIP RUNNER experience, and I'd say easily the best Runner game ever made.
The major addition to this game is Runner Maker, which is precisely what it sounds like. A simple to use design kit to create your own RUNNER stages and share them with the world. Of course, the interface is currently flooded with impossibly hard levels, but that's just to be expected. Ultimately it depends on whether making such things interests you; me, I prefer the complexity of Mario Maker, but that's hardly the point. This is a cleverly-made WYSIWYG tool which offers the gift of level design and peer feedback to the masses.
Don't feel like making levels yourself? No problem. There's plenty to do here, with a totally fresh campaign of stages and a host of bonus levels that include a complete 1:1 remake of BIT.TRIP RUNNER, stages based on the music from other BIT.TRIP games as well as Runner 2 and 3. All in all, there are countless levels here, all crafted in Unreal Engine 5, smooth as butter and beautifully rendered. It's a joy to place as the rhythm elements of the game fall into place, synchronised wonderfully with your movements.
RERUNNER, then, overcomes the obstacle of its own seeming obsolescence by incorporating its entire lineage into one ultimate example of its genre. The only thing in its way is you, or your desire (or not) to play another Runner game. Trust me; this one is worth your time.