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Bit.Trip Core: Even Bit.Trippier Than The Last One

Next week's WiiWare release is a grueling rhythmic juggernaut. But does it have a heart?

    

 I can see through time, man.
When Gaijin Games' Alex Neuse talks about his company's WiiWare series Bit.Trip, he doesn't just speak in terms of intense rhythm action with a pixel-art style. That's what the average player is likely to see when they first put their hands on a Bit.Trip game, but Neuse will tell you there's a lot more going on under the hood.

The six-episode series, about to get its second installment next Monday in Bit.Trip Core, actually tells a continuous storyline about a nebulous but excellently named figure, Commander Video. Talking to Neuse made me think of Bit.Trip as a concept album, the way a record like Pink Floyd's The Wall tells a story with music rather than more conventional narrative means. It seems like Gaijin is trying to do the same thing here--only they've got trippy retro visuals and twitchy rhythmic gameplay to act as storytelling tools along with the music.

You'd know about all this if Neuse explained it to you over a conference-room table, as he did for me. But you might miss Bit.Trip Core's narrative elements if you came to the game with no prior information. Some of you may be so harried by the gameplay's frantic demands that you won't even notice whatever thematic elements have been tucked subtly away beneath the thumping beats and day-glo light show. Luckily, you don't have to find them; Neuse allows that if the game weren't still fun when stripped of its peripheral elements it would constitute a failure of his game design.
    
 Look, a storyline!
Others of you are right now rolling your eyes at all this art-house stuff, saying "just get to the game already." And so I shall. Unlike  Bit.Trip Beat 's motion-analog control, Core has moved on to the d-pad and a single button--and just like the controls, the concept of the action couldn't be simpler. There's a plus sign in the middle of the screen. You can shoot a beam from each end of it. Dots are swirling around the plus, and you have to hit them with the appropriate beam when they pass by. Each dot makes a note when you hit it, so hitting enough of them will make a song. Easy peasy.

Of course it's not really that easy, since it's about halfway through the first level before the dots come at you fast enough to fluster you, and then maybe a few more minutes before you're scrambling to even keep up with them at all. The game kicks into a great effect when you're on the verge of losing: it drops its Rez-like crazy backgrounds, goes completely black and white, and plays all of the (reduced) music and sounds through the Wii-mote speaker.

You can get a basic sense of how the game plays from this trailer, though it does get way harder than this.

 
   

The dot patterns are the same every time, so part of playing Core well is simple memorization. Many of the dots cross more than one of the four cardinal directions as they arc around, though, so you can vary up the songs a little by choosing which beam to hit a dot with--which will in turn change up the melody a bit. There's an occasional power-up that gives you a two-way beam, but also a power-down that turns your plus (and your controls) 90 degrees. In gameplay terms, the appeal here seems to be along the lines of the Guitar Hero school of rhythm design, with an emphasis on practice and repetition in order to achieve perfect playing that in turn creates the best possible musical experience. 
 
The Wii seems to have found its answer to Art Style or PixelJunk with the Bit.Trip games, whether you come to them looking for high-concept storytelling or just good, clean rhythm action. Given the combination of aesthetic consistency and gameplay variation between Beat and Core so far, it'll be interesting to see what directions Gaijin pursue with the remaining four installments. Check out our video interview with Neuse for a little more insight into where the series is going.

 

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
28 Comments
Posted by Brad

    

 I can see through time, man.
When Gaijin Games' Alex Neuse talks about his company's WiiWare series Bit.Trip, he doesn't just speak in terms of intense rhythm action with a pixel-art style. That's what the average player is likely to see when they first put their hands on a Bit.Trip game, but Neuse will tell you there's a lot more going on under the hood.

The six-episode series, about to get its second installment next Monday in Bit.Trip Core, actually tells a continuous storyline about a nebulous but excellently named figure, Commander Video. Talking to Neuse made me think of Bit.Trip as a concept album, the way a record like Pink Floyd's The Wall tells a story with music rather than more conventional narrative means. It seems like Gaijin is trying to do the same thing here--only they've got trippy retro visuals and twitchy rhythmic gameplay to act as storytelling tools along with the music.

You'd know about all this if Neuse explained it to you over a conference-room table, as he did for me. But you might miss Bit.Trip Core's narrative elements if you came to the game with no prior information. Some of you may be so harried by the gameplay's frantic demands that you won't even notice whatever thematic elements have been tucked subtly away beneath the thumping beats and day-glo light show. Luckily, you don't have to find them; Neuse allows that if the game weren't still fun when stripped of its peripheral elements it would constitute a failure of his game design.
    
 Look, a storyline!
Others of you are right now rolling your eyes at all this art-house stuff, saying "just get to the game already." And so I shall. Unlike  Bit.Trip Beat 's motion-analog control, Core has moved on to the d-pad and a single button--and just like the controls, the concept of the action couldn't be simpler. There's a plus sign in the middle of the screen. You can shoot a beam from each end of it. Dots are swirling around the plus, and you have to hit them with the appropriate beam when they pass by. Each dot makes a note when you hit it, so hitting enough of them will make a song. Easy peasy.

Of course it's not really that easy, since it's about halfway through the first level before the dots come at you fast enough to fluster you, and then maybe a few more minutes before you're scrambling to even keep up with them at all. The game kicks into a great effect when you're on the verge of losing: it drops its Rez-like crazy backgrounds, goes completely black and white, and plays all of the (reduced) music and sounds through the Wii-mote speaker.

You can get a basic sense of how the game plays from this trailer, though it does get way harder than this.

 
   

The dot patterns are the same every time, so part of playing Core well is simple memorization. Many of the dots cross more than one of the four cardinal directions as they arc around, though, so you can vary up the songs a little by choosing which beam to hit a dot with--which will in turn change up the melody a bit. There's an occasional power-up that gives you a two-way beam, but also a power-down that turns your plus (and your controls) 90 degrees. In gameplay terms, the appeal here seems to be along the lines of the Guitar Hero school of rhythm design, with an emphasis on practice and repetition in order to achieve perfect playing that in turn creates the best possible musical experience. 
 
The Wii seems to have found its answer to Art Style or PixelJunk with the Bit.Trip games, whether you come to them looking for high-concept storytelling or just good, clean rhythm action. Given the combination of aesthetic consistency and gameplay variation between Beat and Core so far, it'll be interesting to see what directions Gaijin pursue with the remaining four installments. Check out our video interview with Neuse for a little more insight into where the series is going.

 

Staff
Posted by phlegms

Woah, thats trippy indeed. For the 3rd time today my mind just got blown.

Posted by Crono11

I really liked Bit. Trip Beat so I'll probably be getting this right when it comes out.

Posted by JohnTheGamer

I liked the first one as well, most likely will get this.

Posted by JJWeatherman

That was a great interview. That guy seemed cool. Maybe I should check these games out.

Posted by JJOR64

The game looks crazy.  I got the first one and it was ok.  Might check out the new one when it comes out.

Posted by eternalmatt

I wish it wasn't just on Wii Shop. If its just D-Pad and buttons, why not 360 and PS3? And GBA and DS and PSP and ColecoVision? 

Posted by Alphazero

Was that local to the Bay Area? I wonder if there are two dudes with that same Arecibo tattoo.

it's a cool design. It has a pixeled representation of a human, where we are in the universe, some particulars on DNA. It's nifty.

Posted by Hailinel

Bit.Trip:  Beat was a lot of fun.  I'm looking forward to giving Core a shot.

Posted by PhilSebben

I loved Bit Trip Beat, it really gave me this warm and fuzzy kind of feeling. The mix between the trippy visuals and 8 bit retro art style work really well for me. Each of these bit trip games  for $6 is a steal. Core will be a day one purchase, developers like this need to be suppourted..

Posted by steevl

I'm torn on whether I should buy this right away or wait until I finish Bit.Trip Beat first.  I still can't clear the second level.

This game looks more difficult, but I know I won't be able to resist.

Online
Posted by Knives

Can't wait. Definitely a cool series.

Posted by Joseppie

Story? Uh-huh, sure. The game's cool, that's all that matters.

Posted by billysea

After watching the interview I am so excited to see what the series is going to turn into.

I am still stuck with Beat though, it's too freaking difficult!
Posted by Linkyshinks

Video keeps cutting way early for me.

The game does sound great though.

Posted by Jedted
@eternalmatt said:
"I wish it wasn't just on Wii Shop. If its just D-Pad and buttons, why not 360 and PS3? And GBA and DS and PSP and ColecoVision?  "
If they made it for the 360 then i'm geussing the gameplay wouldn't be as fun on account of the current 360 d-pad sucks.
Posted by Dauragon

Oh man this game looks brutal! I can't wait.

Posted by Mechadragoon14

It's good thing you guys are covering this game, a lot of people would pass over it otherwise, but this should at least help sales a little bit for Gaijin. It's nice to see people make original games and games for the Wii that are challenging for people who actually like Video Games.

Posted by Winternet

I'm still years away from this game. But I can't wait to see a video of someone playing this hardcore. That should be awesome.

Posted by Yit

That looks freakin' impossible. I'm intrigued.

Posted by get2sammyb

That guy was really cool. Great interview.

Edited by EvilDingo

Considering that I can't even pass first level in Bit.trip beat, which effectively block me off from even trying the 2 later levels... I don't think I'm in too much of a hurry buying the next game.


I know it's all about being retro and thus hard as hell, but I still consider that bad game design... although I don't think I would even mind the difficulty if all 3 levels were accessible off the bat and the highscore was actually possible to penetrate, so you at the very least could tell if you were doing better... or just so you could compare your score with other users of the Wii.
Posted by Osiris

Smart guy, good interview and very nice to watch. Game looks awesome and definitely gonna pick it up, pixel style ftw.

Posted by phlegms

Oh wait, its on the wii?
Thats a shame...

Posted by Marzy

Excellent interview Brad, I really enjoyed it. : )

I love Bit.Trip Beat, despite it being very difficult. I find it can be very addictive though, so I may have to get this one as well.


Posted by Kohe321

Great interview!

Edited by Media_Master

It looks mad confusing, than once that clears up, mad hard

Posted by momentarylogic

Wow, that guy was awesome. Wish I still had my wii if only for this game.