Games for Lunch: Bit.Trip Void
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: Nov. 23, 2009
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
0:00 I loved the first two Bit.Trip games, even though I couldn't even come close to beating either one. Despite my well-developed rhythm-game skills, these punishing games pushed me past my limit. But I loved every second of their trippy gameplay. I somehow missed Void's release during the hectic holiday season, but it's never too late to dive on in.
0:01 Even though the game is on an SD card, I still need 286 blocks of memory on the Wii itself to play. So off to memory management we go.
0:03 So long, Wii Fit Plus Channel. Your constant reminders that it's been "more than a week" since my last check will not be missed. I still need 71 more blocks...
0:04 I don't Check Miis Out enough, and that will continue to be true now that the Check Mii Out Channel is gone.
0:05 And we're off. "The Nunchuk or Classic controller is required," I'm told, which surprises me, since the previous games just used the Remote like an NES controller.
0:06 The menu screen puts me in control of a large, pixilated black dot (the titular Void?) which I can move to select from three game modes: Id, Ego and Super-Ego. Id is the only one available, so let's go!
0:07 Commander Video stands in a red circle and does a little dance. The red circle grows bigger as two more Commander Videos watch from their own blue circles. They're getting shorter and stouter as the dance continues, then they fly off the screen. What the hell was that?
0:08 OK, thanks to some experimentation (and subtle on-screen cues), I've figured out that I'm supposed to collect the floating black dot and avoid the floating white dots. The black dots make me bigger, meaning it's harder to avoid white dots, but pressing the A button discharges them, building up my score and shrinking me down to my normal size. Reminds me a bit of Ikaruga, but a lot less pretty.
0:10 Already reached Checkpoint 1/3. Already I'm really annoyed by the background, which pulsates between light and dark in time with the music. This makes it REALLY hard to see the black and white dots I'm supposed to be collecting. It's like the creators have never heard of the concept of contrast. The way my score and multiplier gently float by in the background is incredibly distracting as well. I'm liking the dance music, though, and the way collecting dots adds a few echoing notes to the tune.
0:12 Dots are coming in from all sides now, two at a time. Apparently missing a black dot is just as bad as hitting a white one, because I miss only a few and the background changes to a slate grey and the sound cuts out completely. The transition is so jarring that I miss a few more black dots and get my first Game Over. Seems I'll have to memorize these multi-dot patterns to have any chance. I use my one continue to restart from the checkpoint.
0:15 I'm just noticing that the bigger my Void is, the more slowly it moves. Makes the urge to shrink even greater, but I have to hold off if I want to maximize my score. At least, I think I do.
0:17 I fell down to the grey level again, at about the same point in the game, but this time I just make it out by collecting a dozen or so black dots in a row without a miss. I pick up a "Repellant" power-up just in time to break through an otherwise impassable wall of white dots. These new dot patterns require a lot of shrinking to get by whites.
0:18 This minute spent not moving, avoiding lines of crisscrossing white dots. This game would be both impossible and impossibly beautiful if I were high.
0:19 The Vortex power-up draws all nearby black dots into me, making me grow quite quickly (and dangerously). It's all about detecting patterns in the seeming chaos ... even on this first playthrough, I can kind of tell what's coming, based on the timing of the music and the dots that have come before. There's a certain crazy logic to it all.
0:21 I miss just a couple of blacks and it's down to the grey background again. Just in time to avoid some crazy, spiraling white dots that look like the arms of some runaway galaxy. Yipes!
0:22 Checkpoint 3/3. I get a bonus of 26,200 for blacks I hit, but lose 22,000 points for the whites I hit. Wow, I'm sucking it up.
0:23 Weird ... this series of dots matches and opposes my up/down movements, so I can only collect the dots in the center of the screen. Reminds me of Bit.Trip Beat a bit.
0:24 Collecting a single black dot activates Challenge Mode, which reverses my controls and then sends a few large walls of white dots for me to avoid. I crash into almost all of them as I get used to the new controls, and quickly lose. No more continues, so I have to restart all the way at the beginning. Wow, that's brutal. And this is only the first level!
0:26 I spend a few minutes reading the online "Operations Guide," just to make sure I'm not missing something crucial to the gameplay. Apparently I start out in Hyper mode, then go up to Mega, Super and Ultra in order if I do perfectly for long enough. Extra continues at 5 million, 15 million and 30 million points. I wonder how close I got...
0:29 Back to the beginning of Id. I'll check in with you guys at the checkpoints ... seems appropriate, no?
0:32 Up to Checkpoint 1 again. I'm not shy about shrinking to avoid the whites this time. It was a nearly perfect playthrough for the section, except for one errant white that I nudged because I was too slow to hit the A button. I'm up to Ultra mode when I finish, though, which earns me a 500,000-point bonus.
0:36 Checkpoint 2. I'm finding it hard to collect black dots after I shrink, even though I'm faster, just because there's less surface area to use. Just knowing the general patterns for the levels helps immensely, even if I haven't completely memorized them yet, they're still recognizable. This is not a game for sight-readers.
0:40 And ... I'm dead just as I get the Vortex item again. I was doing so well, but my attention faltered for juuuust a second, and BAM, I'm done for. I was at 4.77 million points, too... so close to earning a second continue. Of course, using my continue reduces my score to zero. So much for THAT.
0:41 Scary realization of the moment: The multiplier counter has four digits. It currently reads "0022." I haven't even hit THREE digits yet! I can't even imagine getting to x1000.
0:44 Checkpoint 3. My strategy of shrinking down as soon as I see a white dot is helping immensely with survival, if not with scoring.
0:45 Good lord, these backgrounds are so dark! I have to squint to see the black dots against them. It's like the designers were actively trying to piss off the player.
0:47 I make it through the Challenge Mode this time, though just barely ... I hit quite a few white dots in there. Time for the BOSS, as the huge, blocky letters in the background warn me.
0:49 The boss takes the form of waves of white dots scrolling down from the top of the screen, making an old-fashioned racing-game course. I have to follow the line of black dots through the slalom course of white dots, constantly shrinking the whole time to avoid growing too wide. I'm doing all right, but I finally give out near what must be the end of the third and final wave. Looks like it's Game Over again. AIEEEE!
0:53 Practice makes perfect, I guess... I've got a perfect round going through the first checkpoint. It's an amazingly gratifying feeling, even though I know it's not close to the hardest part of the game, or even the level. I get a million-point bonus for my trouble, and I'm already very close to that extra continue. My multiplier is up to 212, and I hit the rarefied Ultra mode, too.
0:57 I missed a black dot early on in the second section, which is kind of nice because it takes the pressure off. I'm up to 9.2 million points now, and have two continues saved up.
1:00 My third time through this ridiculousness, I'm seeing patterns and paths I simply didn't before. The trick is to un-focus your eyes and take in the whole screen at once, rather than focusing in on the Void. It's like learning how to dance, or a particularly hard song ... practice makes perfect. I can feel my muscle memory kicking in. "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream..."
1:04 Id is DEFEATED! After a while dodging white slalom posts, I realized that the black void that I've been following isn't just a guide, but a collectible dot that I have to get to finish the level! Frustrating!
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? I'm just enough of a gaming masochist -- and a fan of the aesthetic -- to see what's next. I'm probably not enough of a masochist to beat it, though.
This column is based on a downloadable copy of the game purchased by the columnist.
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