Disclaimer: This is a nitpicky review for lilt line that will pretty much mean nothing to people who haven’t played BIT.TRIP BEAT, as I keep comparing the two games. I couldn’t help but pit these games against each other in my head while playing lilt line and overanalyse the differences. I didn’t mean for the review to come out this way, but I don’t know how to write it any other way. Maybe there is a need for a review like this anyway, I don’t know. I hope so. So here it is.
A good way to discover new music that you will like is to check out what your favorite bands are into. Chances are there will be something there for you too. Is it the same with music games? Gaijin Games, the studio behind my beloved BIT.TRIP series on Wiiware, has ported and published developer Different Cloth’s iPhone game lilt line, they must hold the game in high esteem. So what does this game have to offer to BIT.TRIP fans?
There are some immediately obvious similarities between lilt line and the first game in the BIT.TRIP series, BEAT: both are controlled holding the Wii remote sideways and tilting it away and toward you, both have a simple style with special effects that make the screen harder to read when you’re doing well, and the music is central in both. But these are superficial resemblances, and lilt line reveals itself to be inferior to in most ways when you dig into it.
First, while the controls are similar in both games, they don’t feel anywhere near as good in lilt line. In BEAT, the angle of the remote matches an absolute position on the screen for your paddle. After a while, your hands know where they need to be for your paddle to be at the exact spot you want it to be. It feels very, very precise.
lilt line doesn’t feel anywhere as good, because you’re not moving the line here: you’re steering it. The more you tilt, the sharper the line will swerve up or down. It’s just not the same, and it’s simply nowhere as precise.
Another issue is that while in tilting the remote is all you do, allowing you to find the best, most comfortable way to hold it, lilt line also has you press a button when your line crosses the prompts on screen. Because you need to have a finger ready to press a button at any moment, that severely reduces the ways you can hold the remote. There is basically no way to keep your thumb on the 2 button while playing this game and be comfortable. At least Gaijin Games allows you to press anything on the remote to score a beat: I ended up settling for taking off the remote’s cover and press left on the D-pad when these prompts come up. It’s a bit unusual but because the remote is slimmer at that point, it felt better.
So that’s for the controls. How’s the overall design? Again, I find it inferior to what the BIT.TRIP series has offered us in the past. lilt line makes mistakes that in my opinion seem to result from the developers asking themselves “How can we make a simple game that’s difficult and looks cool?” without asking the more important question “What is good game design?”.
What do I mean by that? Well, in the middle of the game there is a level where you don’t have anything to do, really, and nothing to see or hear except for a corny line about fear that would make Vincent Price proud, and that lasts for at least 15 seconds (I’ve counted the Mississippi’s!). In a game where you’re meant to replay levels over and over again to better your scores, they made a level that deliberately wastes your time for 15 seconds. And may I say that the line is annoying the second time you hear it, let alone the twentieth time? That’s what I mean by cool but not good design.
Also, I have to give more credit to Gaijin Games’ game design philosophy than just say “they know better than to not have you do anything for 15 seconds”. Their games also gradually teach you how to play them. The levels in start slow, easy and with simple patterns. As you progress, the patterns come at you faster and get more complex, but you already know how to deal with them, they’re essentially all stuff that the game has gradually introduced to you, and the music hints at what you’re supposed to do and where you’re supposed to go.
In lilt line, I feel no such natural progression. Each short level stands alone and they don’t flow into one another. And even within a level, I cannot make out any logic in the patterns thrown at me. I try listening to the music and watching the path that the game lays before me and it seems quite random. Only the beats I have to tap to match beats in the music.
Really, in the end, your appreciation of this title will depend completely on your appreciation of the presentation, and especially the music, which the trailer tells me is “dubstep”. It’s not a genre I listen to myself, obviously, but some of the tracks in the game are pretty catchy. A couple are really, really grating, and while I forced myself to play some of their levels until I had a perfect run, my recommendation would be to avoid that. Clear them once and never look back.
The game is very short, probably takes about an hour to finish all the tracks. And even counting the replay value that going for perfect scores in each level adds, I’d say you’ll spend 3-4 hours on it at most. Actually, I guess that’s not too bad, there are Wiiware games at $10 that don’t last as long.
So to answer the question posed at the beginning of the review, what does this game have to offer to BIT.TRIP fans? A challenging game that, on the presentation side, allows you to groove to cool music and enjoy trippy but simple visuals, but on the gameplay side, falls short of the standard set by BIT.TRIP BEAT. I still recommend it to people who have watched the videos or played the demo and found the music to be right up their alley, but those hankering for more BEAT-like gameplay and thought they could get their fix with this game should stay away.
I put a little over an hour into it and feel like I'm done with it. I found the gameplay itself to be fun, it's just that instead of shaking it up in the way the BIT.TRIP BEAT does it just throws weirder turns and rhythms at you. It really does feel like an iPhone game.
I still feel like there is value to the game if one day you have $5 to burn and feel like playing to the kind of music that's in those videos. But other than that, there are much better, more satisfying games you could spend you money on in the Wii Shop channel.