Trippin’ in your hand.
Bit.Trip Saga is the full collection of games that made up what is arguably the best series of games available on WiiWare, the Nintendo Wii downloadable game service. This collection bunches together all six of the Bit.Trip games on the 3DS console for the first time, allowing handheld gamers to enjoy what are perfectly portable games. Rising Star Games, who are distributing this collection in the UK, have also released Bit.Trip Complete which offers the six games on disc for Wii owners. Whereas the Wii collection includes a host of new levels for the games and other desirable things such as online leaderboards, the 3DS collection contains the games almost exactly as they would be found on WiiWare, with the only difference being the controls and a lack of multiplayer. But more on that in a minute, what are the games about?
Well, the six games in the Bit.Trip series are only really linked by their visual and audio style. All of the games feature bright, colourful retro graphics that will cast many an older gamer into fits of nostalgia. This alone is not that unusual in recent years. But when it is combined with an incredibly hypnotic retro soundtrack, the result is something special.
The fact is that these visuals and the rhythmic sounds are not only window-dressing for the games, they are an active part of each game and they change, becoming more or less complex, depending on how the player is performing. What makes this collection even more impressive on the 3DS is the inclusion of the 3D effect on the visuals. Whilst this effect varies between the different games, overall it looks great, enabling the simplistic graphics to leap out of the screen.
BEAT and Flux are the most simple games, but that is not saying that they are easy. With influence taken from the daddy of video gaming, Pong, the player controls a paddle on the side of the screen and has to rebound the various pixels that try to get past. On the 3DS, the player has a choice of using either the circle pad to control their paddle, or the touchscreen. Of the two, the touchscreen control came most naturally, whilst the circlepad proved to be just too “jumpy” for precision moving.
CORE is an interesting variation in which the player has to control a line that emmanates from the centre of the screen in four directions and stop the flying pixels. The controls simply require the player to push the circlepad either up, down, left or right and press A to fire the beam.
VOID also uses the circlepad, although this time it is used to move the void around the screen, gathering black pixels whilst avoiding white pixels. As the black pixels are gathered, the void grows making it more difficult to avoid the white. The player can bank their collected black pixels at any point by pressing the A button, at which point the void returns to it’s beginning size.
RUNNER is perhaps my favorite of the games. This constant running game requires the player to simply reach the finish line for each of the levels, and will involve jumping, sliding, kicking, blocking and springing from springboards to reach the end.
In my mind, FATE is the weakest of the bunch, being presented as a simple shooter in which the player moves along the “vibe”, a wavy line that runs through the game, and shoots at the enemies or items blocking his way by aiming with the stylus.
The controls all work incredibly well in the different games. In fact, some of the games actually perform better than their original incarnations. This would obviously have been my first worry about the collection, considering the precision required in pretty much all of the games. But the developers have created control methods that suit the 3DS and gaming on the go.
Which is an important point. There is a casual nature to these games, although not in their difficulty, which makes them ideal for mobile gaming. They are relatively simple to understand and can be played in short bursts. But this does not mean that the collection is necessarily suitable for casual gamers. Each of the games has a very high difficulty curve and, due to the retro nature, can be quite unforgiving, making them much more hardcore than the average casual gamer would enjoy.
There is also the disappointing absence of any new content in the games, as was included with Bit.Trip Complete. Although the games have never appeared on the handheld before, which is certainly a large part of the appeal, any one who has previously purchased one of these games on the Wii may have trouble justifying the 3DS purchase.
Whilst the value for money of this collection may be questionable, there is no denying that these six Bit.Trip games fit perfectly on the 3DS. The high difficulty levels may put some gamers off, but if you fancy your handheld gaming with a retro twist and are not put off by the game over screen, Bit.Trip Saga will provide you with hours and hours of addictive gaming.