Great visual design; amazing gameplay; incredible soundtrack; deep replayability; hilarious presentation.
Not lasting forever.
There’s been tons of runner games in recent years. Games where you just run forever– progressing to infinity or to preset goals– have proven to be fun, satisfying, and easy to pick up and play. But I think it’s time for runner games to give up now. The perfect runner game is here, and it’s called Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. It’s a mouthful of a title, but it’s suited for a game that’s gushing with flavor and content. It’s one of the best downloadable games I’ve ever played, and it’s a blast that will put a big stupid grin on your face.
The game continues the first Bit.Trip Runner, and Commander Video has been sent to another dimension where he must run a whole lot of miles to get back to his homeland and defeat the evil Timbletot. Every one of the game’s 100 or so levels involves the same procedure: run and dodge obstacles while picking up gold and other goodies. It’s standard fare for a runner game, and even more familiar if you’ve played the first title.
However, what makes Runner 2 immediately stand out is its amazing presentation. There are little touches everywhere in this game, such as fake advertisements you see on the loading screen and incredible backdrops in the levels. There’s even a few narrated segments voiced by the one and only Charles Martinet (aka: the voice of Mario), who is downright hilarious. Seriously, we need to see this guy branch out some more. Even the world and level names are full of personality, and more than a few will make you chuckle. A game having level names like “Tripping on Herbs” and “Pilge Bump” is a good thing.
In motion, Runner 2 impresses even further. Every level is presented in stunning HD, and the new art style looks positively delicious. Every polygon, every backdrop, and every character looks bright, clean, and colorful. Commander Video is a joy to watch on the move, and his actions are animated with a buttery smoothness. Levels also feature full backgrounds which are packed with great scenery and eye candy. You may have to keep yourself from admiring the views while running through the game for the first time. The aesthetic in Bit.Trip Runner was retro and endearing, but this visual design in Runner 2 is truly inspired and wholly original.
But don’t think Runner 2 is only about style. The gameplay is some of the most addictive, enjoyable, and rewarding I have ever experienced. Gaijin Games has somehow distilled the inherent fun in perpetual motion down to an art. There wasn’t a single moment I felt bored or unhappy while playing Runner 2, and every jump, slide and movement is perfectly choreographed to give you just the right amount of responsiveness. Even players who jump right into the middle of the game will have no trouble at all mastering the motions. When you get absorbed in the game, you’ll soon reach a point of running zen that is unlike any other experience.
And the level design is incredible. There are five worlds to run through in Runner 2, and each and every one of them is fun and and full of character. Each world has its own distinct look and music. Running isn’t a one-way track either. This game greatly expands on what we’re familiar with in games of this sort by adding branching pathways, alternate exits, and hidden treasure in nearly every level. Runner 2 also introduces checkpoints, which goes a long way in preventing unneeded headache; but intrepid and purist players can still bypass these midpoints for extra points if they so desire. There’s never a frustrating level that you won’t want to play through, because they’re all so fun.
Commander Video has numerous abilities at his disposal to avoid obstacles, and the game slowly builds up your skills in being able to recognize when to use these different actions. The difficulty curve in Runner 2 is gentle, but not too slow. By gradually introducing new obstacles to the player, the game builds up your skill to the point where you won’t even notice the game is getting harder. The first Runner suffered from an incredibly steep difficulty curve, one that was a huge turn-off for a lot of players, myself included. However, in Runner 2 I was never stuck on a segment for more than a few tries. But don’t call this game easy. It will take some real focus to conquer, although I’ll concede that the game is, overall, a bit easier than the original Bit.Trip Runner. However, with adjustable difficulty and unlockable extra levels that are tough as nails, Runner 2 offers a substantial challenge to those looking for it.
And of course, there’s music. Runner 2 has a soundtrack that will tingle both your ears and your soul. The original game only used chiptune and electronic beats, but the sequel has graduated to incredible arranged tracks with a rich sound. You can still hear the chiptune influences when you listen, but the music here ranges from smooth and jazzy to airy and light. I even heard some dubstep at one point. What makes the music even more enjoyable is that the levels are synched up to the tunes. When you nail every jump, gold, and slide right along with the music, you feel like you’re in gaming heaven. Seriously, I felt a bit entranced at times.
The game also has a few challenging boss battles.
The only negative point I can even think of about this game is that it has to end. I wanted one more world, one more chance to run! Luckily, Runner 2 has astounding replayability. Like I said before, there are unlockables in nearly every level to find. New characters to run with can be unlocked, and each one has a variety of costumes to obtain. There’s also entirely optional levels, and the 25 retro styled levels that need to be discovered. Oh, and there’s even an in-game achievement system to work towards. If you want to unlock absolutely everything Runner 2 has to offer, you’ll need to play through every single level at least three times. That’s around 20 hours of gameplay for just $15. That’s not even taking into account the online leaderboards, which can greatly extend the game and encourage more plays if you want to beat your friends’ high scores.
Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a masterful work of art. It has it all: hilarious presentation, great aesthetic, stellar music, and compelling gameplay. It’s a rare sequel that improves on the original in every single way imaginable. I highly recommend this game, and it’s one of the best values you can get. You owe it to yourself to pick up this amazing title as soon as you can.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.