BIT.TRIP RUNNER / Gaijin Games / PC
Hot on the heels of Super Meat Boy, I play another game in the new "play the same frustrating bit of the level over and over and over and over and over again" genre that the kids all seem to be into these days. Only this time, there's not the nicety of "checkpoints" or confinement to one relatively short screen, you get to start over at the very beginning of the level every time you cock up.
Unlike Meat Boy, which I was kinda sour to right from the start, I actually really wanted to like Bit.Trip Runner. I like the colorful presentation and the mishmosh of the old Atari/Activision aesthetic with modern polygons. I like the basic concept of a platformer mashed up with a rhythm game. I don't like the way it's executed here though; it's just too clumsy and frustrating.
Each of the game's levels is essentially a long QTE, and when you mess up, you start the whole thing over. Mr. Runner or Captain Vidya or whatever his name is runs to the right endlessly at an automatic pace. You press the jump, kick and slide buttons at appropriate times to make him dodge or smash obstacles, and its all vaguely in sync with the beat of the background music. The first problem is that the game is very much on the hard side even with adjustable difficulty. Even though the levels generally don't last more than a minute and a half or so, when you're constantly being kicked back to the very beginning, all those minutes add up. You also have to take on the game's 50 levels in completely linear order, so if you're stuck on one, there's nothing else available to do with the game but replay previous levels.
A few smaller problems exacerbate the difficulty. The first is that you're constantly encountering stairs, the only response to which seems to be to mash the button as frantically as possible to climb them. It's a weird shift from the measured ryhthm of the rest of the level and takes some getting used to. Also, the sparkly flashes when you pick up gold and such sometimes obscure upcoming obstacles, certain obstacles like the dark UFOs also sometimes get camoflauged in the background objects.
What the experience usually comes down to is sitting there playing and playing and playing the same level over and over and over until you bash your way through it, which I couldn't take more than an hour or so total of.