When I was a young boy, long car rides bored me. Hell, short car rides could bore me. To combat this semi-constant risk of dullness, I would stare outside my window and imagine… With the grass passing by, telephone poles whizzing past my placement, and the landscape constantly changing, I would imagine myself a rabbit. This rabbit was something akin to Bugs Bunny but really he never had that much of clear description. The one thing that was clear though, he liked to run. He liked to jump! He would leap over fences and slide along power lines. This rabbit would join me on those car rides and constantly run. Endlessly. Jumping and busting through any and all obstacles. This would settle my mind for trips upon trips. Had I been more aware of what was happening in my head, perhaps I would have been a game designer at a young age, as when I was six, I pretty much had the idea for Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (known from here on out as Runner2). However, lucky for all of us, Gaijin Games would capitalize on this concept and carve themselves a whole new platforming genre; and an incredible sequel to boot.
The gameplay has always been the forefront of the Runner series and it's evident that Gaijin Games cared a lot about that going into it's first official sequel in the runner series. The controls are simple. Always a positive. You press B to Jump and Y to Kick. Holding Right will block but so will pressing the A button. Pressing R will let you Dance, once that's unlocked that is. This dancing mechanic throws an interesting mechanic into the mix which causes there to be a risk/reward system with any gaps between jumps and enemies you might see. At lower difficulties it might make sense to do it more, but at higher difficulties dancing is both harding to pull off and also less of a points-earner. This of course is because you pass more enemies which can net you more points. Reminding me a bit of Banjo-Kazooie in the sense that this sequel starts you quickly with all your old moves and adds upon them, Runner2 throws plenty of new gameplay mechanics in your way which both shake up the feel of the game and allow you to be more creative when earning points. For the first half of the game or so you earn a new mechanic every four or five levels it seems. This of course is not a scientific number by any means. Still, there are a lot of them. Fans will find some to be welcome and others to be annoying, though I was able to appreciate them in their own specific ways. Commander Video will find himself running through loops akin to Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog. He'll also find himself hitting awkward square structures which require you to tap the four main buttons in order to the beat. I found these to be the most fun. In the aforementioned loops you use the control stick to follow your character for points. Enemies have more unique movements this time around too which add to the gameplay pleasantly. As the game progresses the frequency of new mechanics slows but the uniqueness of how they are all used together is ramped up significantly. It pays to progress.
As if Runner2 wasn't an 'on rails platformer' already… they go and do this.
Runner2 is chock full of levels; 125 to be exact. Most if not all of them have alternate paths which can be either more or less challenging than the others. Some won't be unlocked on your first play through as you literally need to find a Key to open the way. These keys are in their respective levels but wont exist to grab until you beat The Key Vault, a special level each world contains. If you're having trouble with all these levels, the game now includes a checkpoint system. Every level will have one somewhere near the middle and they are an incredibly welcome addition. Anyone who has made it to level 1-11 in the original Bit.Trip Runner knows that sometimes, you just need a checkpoint. Gaijin Games heard this plea loud and clear. What's beautiful about the system in place too is that it is completely optional. In the same appreciated way that Nintendo's Mario titles now sometimes contain those Super Guides, the checkpoint system in Runner2 is a great aid that isn't forced on you to use. You simply can either run through the checkpoint bar or jump over it. The latter will net you a 50,000 points bonus, a delicious incentive not to use the vice, but running through will prevent you from seeing the beginning of that damned hard level until you restart manually or beat it. This should make it nearly impossible for people to not 'eventually' beat a level. I heard an argument that the checkpoints were lame because you shouldn't have to be forced to avoid them… that doing so was apparently bad design and this made the argument maker angry. Frankly, this is asinine. The checkpoints, if you choose not to use them, simply become another obstacle. It just so happens that instead of ending your progress, this obstacle will remember it. If you were to accidentally hit it, it's not like the game forces you to back out of the level and go back in to correct it. You just simply pause and restart. The game even slows the camera down ever so slightly to give you a chance to jump over it properly. It's a moot complaint. Period. Even the boss levels you'll find at the end of each world contain them, and those are actually forced. However you wont lose point opportunities to take them, which simply negates the argument there too.
The music and sound effects are another key aspect of this game. Once again Gaijin Games has crafted another wonderful chip-tune soundtrack which is as fun to listen to as it is to play through. The game could be played without the sound as the visual cues are clear enough, but why would you want to? Funny though, I was dying so much in one particular spot on one particular level that it almost became normal for me to hear that noise at that point in the song. Passing that section properly sounded weird at first.
Hearing is believing.
Commander Video looks quite different this time around, having a fully three-dimensional body and all. I admit that when this game was in development, I was hating the look. The polygonal look was garish and disappointing to me. Luckily, upon playing it, I knew I was crazy and just simply feeling nostalgic. No more are the blocky pixel-based graphics of the first game. Every world is crafted in clean, colorful polygons. The world is also much more alive than it's already spunky predecessor. On my 40-inch LCD display the graphics looked great as they passed by ever so quickly. If I chose to look downward at the Wii U Tablet controller, they looked great there too. The locations are varied, though somewhat predictably-themed, and that's okay really. The aesthetic and level themes simply are there to heighten the gameplay and clearly delineate between sections of the game. If you're mad that there isn't a desert world, that's not really the fault of Gaijin Games. That said, the levels are definitely busier than before. With all the little animations going on, I found it occasionally hard to concentrate on the action that was key. With the simpler graphics of the original, this was much less a problem, but I suspect it is an intentional design choice and not an oversight. One thing I thought was pleasant was a clear Super Mario World reference. In each world, this concept exists but it is most notable in the first world and I'll leave it to all you gamers to realize what I'm mentioning. The Retro Bonus levels have now upgraded to 16-bit style graphics and I think this is all the better. The levels are much more pleasing to play for that reason. If you're itching to play these cool levels once you've unlocked them, a nice touch is being able to access them right from the menu. No going back into a level unnecessarily!
Now you're playing with 16-bit power!
If I had to describe Runner2 in a word or two, I would definitely choose to say, 'High Replayability'. This game has a ton of levels, each with subtle changes depending on which difficulty of three you choose. You can change this difficulty at any time too which is nice. There is no starting on Hard and being forced to play each level on that till the end. Each level also contains a bonus target section if you collect all the golds in that level. Your character launches his or herself into it and if you nail the center you'll not just get a Perfect+ bonus, but you'll see half your character hanging out of it. Some characters are funnier than others…
Speaking of characters, there's plenty of them. They each have a ton of unlockable outfits too. Characters are unlocked by completing special levels within each world and you actually can tell who they will be because within each world, the unlockable character hangs out at the checkpoint in each level. A subtle touch. My favorite so far is a tie between a genome splice gone wrong and a character that could come right from The Wizard of Oz… though I'll stay coy to not spoil anything. The outfits are unlocked by collecting chests throughout random levels. A nice touch here is that as long as you get the chest once, you have the outfit. If you get the chest but don't succeed in finishing the level, it doesn't matter, that outfit is now yours. There is still incentive to get chests every time though because they also earn points.
I know I've really been running my mouth (or fingers) with this review, so please excuse the pun as I have a few more random notes to make. The game's style seems a little forced for some weird reason, but it's likely a personal issue. Plus I find that I really don't care because the one and only Charles Martinet narrates the game. It was quite a surprise and a treat to hear him narrating the story portions of this game. I forgot how expressive and entertaining he is to listen to beyond his "wahoo" and "okey-dokeh!" ramblings of various Mario titles.
Green Hill Zone... this is not.
So you score points, points, and more points, but so what if you can't share them with your friends? Well you totally can and it works pretty well too. The game will track the top four scores in any level with your friends on your friends list. Already this is proving cool in providing that fiery hatred of others when someone bests your bad-ass score you nailed the day before. Of course, this is also why I hate leaderboards as they can sometimes make me feel like I'm not as good as I really am. One incredible gamer can make someone feel like they're not, but it's actually an optional part of the game anyway. Thus, nobody is forcing you to have the extra stress of competing with others. The two most major pros with the leaderboards is the fact that the scores are limited to your friends and they are per level. This allows you to not get lost in a sea of thousands and thousands while also allowing you to see on a somewhat microscopic level how you compare with your friends. Unfortunately the leaderboards are currently one of the greatest flaws of the game as well. There is no differentiation between difficulty levels, meaning that someone dancing a lot on Easy might actually have a greater score than someone playing normally on hard. It's not that big of a deal but having the distinction would just have expanded the leaderboards more and been appreciated. It may not have made that big of a difference but it would have been welcomed. The other con is a major one, and I mean concept-breaking. As of press time, this game will only save your most recent score; not your best. So if you go crazy and get an insanely awesome score on a level, only to go back in to do the alternate route and unlock something, that score you previously nabbed is forever gone. It's a real bummer and it is totally crushing my spirit to go back and explore, or to bother with high scores until I've unlocked the Key Vault levels. It's a massive oversight and it is apparently on the radar, but when the patch will arrive… who the hell knows. Still, it's not like it affects the core game in the slightest.
Very few games are designed well enough so that if a mistake is made, and a player perishes, that player is the only one to blame. Perhaps some might not even like this idea as it can really exemplify the negative attributes of those less skilled gamers. Bit.Trip Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is just one of those games. Luckily for all of us, they've turned it into a completely customizable experience which should cater to all gaming fans. If the aesthetic weren't enough, the gameplay is, and for that, you all should be running to download this title right this very beat.
Edited purely for grammatical reasons and of a grammatical nature.~ DrFinkelstein
I got the update the day it came out, but it still freezes. Oddly enough, I never had this issue prior to the patch. To be fair, I probably just shut down the system entirely the first three times I played it before the patch. But since, it just bricks the system. I can go to MiiVerse, even into the eShop but as soon as I try and exit the game the entire thing locks up.
Part of me wants to knock my score down a little. This whole no-patch thing is ridiculous. Friends, from now on, expect my scores to not be a true reflection of my skill or attempt. I'm letting my nephew play, and he plays pretty well....getting to the end on many levels... on easy, and it's obviously rewriting my scores.
This oversight has not been fixed and it's been about a month now since release no? Okay, I guess more like almost three weeks. Still, I find it crazy there's been no word about this since the beginning and it's a little disheartening.
@DrFinkelstein Why don't you just make another Wii U user and have your nephew / anyone else who wants to play use that one? My brother and I each have our own users on my Wii U and our scores don't overwrite each other's. This doesn't solve the ultimate issue, but it would definitely keep his scores from overwriting yours.
I've been waiting for the patch before buying Runner2, and I'm getting a little impatient. As much as love the guys at Gaijin Games, I'll probably pass over the game for now and pick it up later when it's fixed and (hopefully) on sale.
The score issue definitely sucks, but from here on out you should probably expect most games to manage their save data under the assumption that the person whose account is playing the game is also the person who is playing the game.
I'm getting impatient as well. I have all Perfect+es on Hard, and I want to play through on the lower difficulties, but I don't want to overwrite my score. Runner2! Let me play you!
Another issue I'm noticing - look at your base score for any level without getting perfect and then once again with perfect. You could do exactly the same manuevers but the non-perfect score will/can be substantially higher. I'm not exactly sure what that is but I think there's a problem with the way the game is tallying score. I could be wrong, but I don't believe I am.
@boodyup I don't think that is a glitch though, I think it is a choice to reward perfects.
@DrFinkelstein My Wii U locks up a bunch, with a bunch of other games too. I'm guessing this particular glitch has something to do with the combination of code and specific Wii U units with weaker hardware than others in some fashion.
@boodyup Oh wait, you are saying that it is higher without perfects? I'm not sure that I agree with that at all. Would have to do a serious breakdown to know for sure. Whatever the case, even if a perfect somehow takes away from the base score, it adds so much on top that it's still by far the best way to get a competitive score.
Oh no, I get that part but just try doing 2 runs through one level - I used" Into the Air" on Welken Wonderland as my primary level. I danced in that level whenever possible. My base score which includes dodging enemies and jumping over objects + dancing always ends up 100k less if I get a perfect. I agree that the final score in a perfect is substantially higher but I kinda wonder whether the system is keeping an accurate tally of non-item grabbing scores. It seems like Gaijin should breakdown the scores a little more if it is accurate-just reported differently. Really Bizarre.
I think it just has a weird way of showing you how it tallies up the score at the end. If you didn't know better, it would look like the CORES (plus signs) are just collectibles that give you points, but they actually multiply your score. The game doesn't show you that.