Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a side-scrolling platformer for the PlayStation Vita (also available on PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360, PC/Mac/Linux and iOS). Gaijin Games developed the title as they have with all previous Bit.Trip games. Unlike the previous entries in the series, Runner 2 marks a departure from the 2D art style. Runner 2 uses full 3D graphics while still maintaining the series’ side-scrolling perspective. The game blends charming themed worlds with a compelling soundtrack and challenging but rewarding gameplay to add another quality title to the PS Vita’s library. The level structure and speed makes Runner 2 a perfect fit for handheld.
The main objective of any given level in Runner 2 is simple. You need to guide Commander Video (or one of his many comrades) past numerous obstacles to the finish line at the end of a level. While the objective may be simple and straightforward, the means by which to accomplish that goal is anything but simple. In a level, you never have to worry about moving Commander Video; he will do that on his own. However, maneuvering past the various obstacles in any of the levels is all up to you.
What Runner 2 does exceedingly well is build its mechanics slowly and layer different types of moves and obstacles in a steady fashion. Early levels may only require you to jump over enemies or up stairs to reach the finish line. After a few levels of mastering Commander Video’s jump, the game adds in a sliding mechanic. Gamers will then have to jump and slide to victory. As you master a move, more mechanics get thrown into the mix. After the first few worlds, levels will throw all the various mechanics at you all at once. To make things tougher, you can challenge yourself to gather all the gold in any given level. Sometimes gathering gold runs the huge risk of having to restart the level (or checkpoint), but diligent gold collecting will increase points and unlock bonus levels. Levels can become exceedingly difficult, but overcoming any given level’s challenge is hugely satisfying. What makes the gameplay so compelling is regardless of a level’s difficulty, it never seems insurmountable. Any level can be overcome with a sharp eye, steeled nerves and quick reflexes.
Runner 2 offers five different worlds with their own themes to dictate the visual style. In each world, there are 19 levels split between 14 regular levels and five bonus ones. Many of these bonus levels are locked without getting a key. In each world, one of the bonus levels is a key vault. Completing key vault levels unlocks keys in each world that allow you to access routes previously locked. Sometimes these locked paths will lead to another bonus level or to a new costume. Each world has a bonus character to unlock and unlocking these characters are done by finding and finishing specific bonus levels. The game also offers 25 retro challenges that consists of 2D levels. These retro challenges are hidden throughout the five world’s levels and can be undertaken by jumping into the icons in the level. Using the alternative paths in each world’s fourteen levels often offers a more challenging route that rewards you with bonuses for completing them.
Graphics and Sound
Each of Runner 2’s five worlds are bursting with personality. The various themes to each world result in charming backgrounds full of anthropomorphic mountains, trees, barrels and clouds along with background objects that are totally grooving to the game’s sweet tunes. The numerous levels in the game feature excellent level design that is not only challenging, but visually compelling. Where the game stretches its legs most visually is the boss fights.
Each boss fight plays out like levels generally do, with players dodging obstacles except that they need to damage massive boss creatures. These boss fights feature fantastic boss animations and shifts in perspective that make them visually compelling. As with previous Bit.Trip games, music is hugely important to the game. Every move performed in the game has a sound and as players move through the levels avoiding obstacles they are contributing to the fantastic soundtrack by Petrified Productions. Oh and Charles Martinet provides the narration for the game. It is wonderful.
Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is a fantastically fun and challenging game. The gameplay smartly builds throughout the levels in the game’s various worlds. The slow build of mechanics allows players to familiarize themselves with each while amassing a mastery of them. Thus, in later levels where numerous different moves are required, they move through them like it is an elegant dance past obstacles. The visuals are charming and colorful while the soundtrack is extremely good. Runner 2 is a great game that makes a fine addition to the budding PlayStation Vita library.