BIT.TRIP BEAT (WiiWare) - Review by Chris



Today's games are all about pushing the envelope as far as possible. Well, at least some are. From pushing the graphical capabilities of a console to pushing the data holding capabilities of the disc the games are written on, many of today's games really are works of marvel due to the technical restraints on all consoles. But in pushing the envelope that bit further, many developers have forgotten what made games great in the first place. Not Gaijin Games who bring this retro to the bone puzzle meets rhythm title, courtesy of Aksys Games, to Nintendo's WiiWare collection.


Gaijin Games have gone back to the simplistic gameplay of the pre-NES era to bring a title that plays like something on the Atari 2600, modernised for the Wii. That may not sound like the most enticing of prospects for a new title on the WiiWare service given what other titles have managed to accomplish with a small amount of space but this is a title that shouldn't be taken on face value. When you launch up Bit.Trip Beat you'll immediately see the retro-ness that Gaijin have taken as the key ingredient to the title. And it's in the playing where this really shines.

To say that the title falls into one category would be a hard thing to do. The best way to describe what happens when you play is to say it's a cross between Pong and a rhythm title. The game comprises of 3 levels, with one starter and the others unlocked as you beat them. When you select you level, you'll be greeted with you paddle on the left hand vertical of the screen as well as a scoreboard at the top and two other bars, one accompanying the scoreboard and one at the bottom of the screen. As the games starts, the music slowly but gradually kicks in and 'bits' will fly at you from the right of the screen in set patterns. Every time you hit a 'bit' back to where it has come from, you'll add to the game's retro sound track with some 'bit' noises which is a very nice touch. As you continue to hit them back, you'll rack up a score on the board and a multiplier which will increase after hitting a certain amount back and when this increases, the music progresses to another level of rhythm. All sounds very simple and laid back. Unfortunately, if you go into the game in that mind frame, you won't last long.

The game eases you into the workings of what you'll be doing but it quickly moves on and will really start to beat you if you can't pick up the pace and stay with it. As the game speeds up, patterns become more frantic and you'll find yourself missing 'bits'. Miss to many, and you'll drop into Nether, a black and white, basic presentation of the game and this represents the last chance the player has to move back into the normal or fail. It's a nice mechanic and adds to the frantic nature of the game as you'll constantly be worrying about failing when you enter Nether. While the game only spans three levels, it's the rapid increase in difficulty that means you'll find yourself constantly replaying the levels, purely due to failure. The difficulty never really becomes an annoyance and you'll find yourself wanting to keep playing on to see if you can finally master the level. And even when you do finish the levels, there is a high score table that'll push you to improve on your best scores and of course there is the genuine retro factor that, like many retro games from the Atari 2600/NES era, make you constantly want to keep playing even after finishing.


This is an area where old meets new. The gameplay is certainly routed deep within the early eras of gaming however Gaijin have implemented a control system based around the current offerings of the Wii. You'll be holding the Wii-mote like a NES controller but don't bother touching the d-pad or face buttons as it's all about rocking the Wii-mote forwards and backwards to move your paddle. It's a mechanic that really does take some getting used to because, at first, it feels quite imprecise. But if you push on with the game and keep at it, you'll get used to the controls but there will still be small,l lingering problems; problems which could have perhaps been alleviated with the simple inclusion of a standard controller setup where you could use the d-pad for moving the paddles.


If anyone had the pleasure of playing the old Atari consoles/computers, then you'll immediately feel at home here. For those who haven't the graphics are as follows: simple block based graphics, using a small range of colours with some 3d moving backgrounds. Psychedelic would be a perfect term to describe what you see. Like Mega Man 9, it's the retro feel of the graphics that appeal and while many may look at it in comparison to the likes of LostWinds on the WiiWare service due to what the managed to create, this stands out for providing an original look that doesn't try to compete in any way with the more graphically prolific titles. Some might see it as detrimental but it adds to the overall experience of the title and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's quirky and that's exactly what WiiWare was made for. The only downside comes in the form of eye strain from the graphics which can lead to the turning off of the title.


As a sort of rhythm title, music is going to play a big part here and like the simplistic aesthetics of the game, the music follows suit. Yet, while the music initially seems like very simplistic techno-beat stuff, it progresses to something more thanks to the sounds created from the 'bits' and what you have is not only a psychedelic presentation but a psychedelic sound track that beeps and boops around and is entirely pleasant to listen to.

Final comments

The WiiWare service was set up primarily to encourage indie developers to produce new and quirky titles and Gaijin have managed to accomplish this perfectly. From a retro presentation in the form of graphics, sound and gameplay to the hard-as-nails difficulty of yore, it's certainly a stand out title on the service and while you only have the 3 levels to play through, the game only costs 600 points and at that price, it's an absolute bargain. A must for any Wii owner who likes a good challenge.

Pro: Retro goodness in a small bundle, great presentation, incredibly fun
Con: Controls are a little imprecise for the game, can cause eye strain
Final score: 8


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Boxart of BIT.TRIP BEAT (WiiWare)
Platform: WiiWare
Genre: Rhythm
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games