I got a very kind email recently from Chris Osborn of Gaijin Games, designers of Bit. Trip Beat, commenting on my Bit Museum show and how he enjoyed it. It was the perfect opportunity to tell him that I had been following the news on their project since I first heard about it, and planned on picking it up as soon as it was launched.
Well, having finally given it some play time and enduring my fair share of bleeding eyeballs (it’s all good, Chris!) I can report that this is, indeed, a New Classic.
After getting about 5 minutes into the game, something dawned on me about the design: this game is most definitely what Space Invaders Extreme is to Pong. Somehow I think that is perhaps the fairest assessment I can give to the design of the title. It takes an old classic, keeps true to its overall visual appeal, adds some sexy eyecandy, and puts a rhythm-spin on it. Really, I can’t think of a better way to make Pong more modern and hip, but still keep it feeling like Pong.
I hope the guys at Gaijin Games (OR Atari) don’t mind my constant comparisons to Pong. If anything, I say it in the most flattering way possible. Pong, in my eyes, is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of game design ever. To say that these guys have made something that can almost be considered a “sequel” to it is nothing short of high flattery.
I won’t go into excessive “review” of the game, since we’re not exactly first on the scene with the info about Bit. Trip Beat, but I do like to think we take a more cerebral approach to talking about games. Essentially, the game is absolutely worth the 600 Wii points it will set you back, and is perhaps one of the most delightful Wii Ware games I have purchased yet. The graphics and sounds, while looking very much like an Atari 2600, throw some retro-looking particle effects and 3D in to keep it fresh and new. The control couldn’t have been better; grab the remote from both ends and twist (not much unlike the original Odyssey Controllers….Ralph Baer FTW.) It works really well. The play mechanics have that lovely zen-like quality to them. There’s not much to do in terms of “objectives”, but you’re constantly on your toes. Keep reflecting the “balls” (space particles?) back as they come at you in rhythmic patterns, playing along to happy little chiptunes. The patterns become very complex and deceptive, requiring you to really use your brain, as you calculate which will reach you first and require to be deflected back before the others.
The game is harder than it looks, but the designers give you a “last chance” and redeeming yourself if you start to falter; the game goes into “Nether” mode, in which the whole screen goes black and white, with basic Pong-like bleeps and bloops, removing all distraction so that you have a chance to…ehem…bounce back. If you fail here, well, its game over, and we’re all very disappointed in you.
The game is not without it’s imperfections. There were some times when the color of the balls were so close to the blackness of the space backdrop that I literally couldn’t see them. They whizzed by me without any notice, and suddenly I was in Nether mode. Also, I would like to have seen maybe a sensitivity control, and possibly a really simple multiplayer (I know, easier said than done…that’s a tough play mechanic to implement multiplayer with.)
All in all, really wonderful, charming and fun game. If you’re 340 years old and enjoyed playing Pong when it first came out, you owe it to yourself to check this out. I’ll say it again: the first real Pong sequel I have ever played.
You see? It’s not just Japanese girls who love Gaijin. I do too!