Old-school, both in difficulty and gameplay
As one of the most intense and frantic games that I've ever played, Bit. Trip Beat revolves around you moving a Pong-like to repel a hailstorm of "beats" flying from right to left across the screen. The beats are bits that move in a set pattern, either moving straight ahead or bouncing, exploding, or anything else you can think of. It's a simple enough concept, but the variations in the forms of the beats makes you think fast and put your eye-hand coordination as well as your memorization skills to the test.
The game works like this: as you catch beats with you handy-dandy paddle, they repel back to the other end of the screen while more of them come down the plane at you rapid fire. It takes a good deal of effort to truly get the hang of it, with your paddle being controlled exclusively by the twisting of the Wii Remote (no d-pad or buttons past the menu!). The real catch here is that there is (pun impending) catchy techno music accompanying all of the madness that is transpiring on screen. As you hit beats, this is directly reflected in the music, while when you miss, it makes a clank noise a la Guitar Hero. The music is half retro, half futuristic, and it fits the game perfectly.
There are two meters in the game, the top measuring the beats you hit and the bottom measuring the ones you miss. As you hit more of the beats, the top meter will slowly fill up, until you upgrade from Mega to Multi mode. At this point, your bottom meter will be cleared, and you get a few free misses before you revert back to Mega (which is the standard mode of play). If you miss enough beats, you'll be relegated to a black and white purgatory (which looks A LOT like the original Pong) with no music to accompany your travails. Hit enough beats, and your back in business in Mega. Miss enough, and it's game over. And then, if you are fortunate to score high enough, you'll be able to enter yourself in the High Score boards, which, unfortunately, are only local. No online leaderboards here. The way to score higher is to hit a large number of beats in a row, building your combo amount and thus boosting your score.
The visual style is definitely old-school, with lots of big squares and distinct, simple polygons in the background. It's tough to pay attention to the goings on behind the 2D plane of play, but if you do manage to take a peek (or have a friend looking on), you'll see pixels flowing through lava, trains made of blocks, houses, and lots and lots of small white specks (what I assume has to be outer space).
There are only three levels in the game, and each will only take you 15 minutes if you know what you're doing. It starts off easy enough, but the difficulty quickly ramps up, to the point that you be will be replaying the levels over and over again just to get through them. I was fairly comfortable with the first level, and managed to get through it after only a few attempts. The second level was hard, but doable, with a decent amount of changes from the first level, but nothing out of the ordinary. The third level is pure, unadulterated hate and pain and agony, and I tortured myself getting through it. However, the sweet success in beating it was worth all the effort. Bottom line: this game is hard as nails, but you'll love it anyway.