Review - Bit.Trip Fate
Previously exclusive to everyone's favorite motion-controlled paperweight... and the 3DS... Gaijin Games has finally brought Bit.Trip Fate to the PC through Steam! Don't expect Fate to fill your need for a Runner 3, though. Bit.Trip Fate is quite a bit different from those charming, colorful, rhythm sprints. This one is full of pure action!
…and by pure action I mean WELCOME TO BULLET HELL!!!
Bit.Trip Fate is an on-rails shooter. Literally. CommanderVideo is locked on a winding path which only allows you to navigate forwards and backwards. Against the onslaught of bullets, this means there is always a set number of safe zones on the screen in any given situation. It's up to you to find these spots quickly before you're riddled to death by colorful bullets. Or you could try blasting your way through. Definitely harder than it sounds.
Unlike the recent Runner 2, Fate returns to the pixelated look of its predecessors. The overall aesthetic is rather haunting. Levels are dark and subterranean in nature to better tell the wordless story of CommanderVideo's ultimate showdown with Mingrawn Timbletot, where he will meet his final… fate. Eh? Get it? Get it???
Video's tall, lean frame is not well-suited to the shoot ‘em up style. Instead, a red cross shape on his chest marks his weak spot. Only the red cross can take damage. Bullets will pass through any other part of Video's body. This takes some getting used to, but was a decent developing decision.
As you play, you'll run across CommanderVideo's friends, like Mr. Robotube and Super Meat Boy, who will shield Video and power-up your weapon. Also, every time you strike an enemy, your "mode bar" will increase. After enough kills, the mode bar will fill, progressing through Hyper, Mega, Super, Ultra, Extra, and finally Giga modes. Each mode increases the number of bullets you can shoot at once.
Every time you're hit, your mode decreases one level. This serves as your health, unlike previous Bit.Trip games, which featured the classic one-hit-and-you're-dead policy. Getting hit too many times will drop you into "Nether Mode." While in the nether, you must hurry to score enough kills to raise your mode back up to Hyper or you'll suffer the dreaded GAME OVER screen.
Fate's difficulty quickly rises to insane degrees. This is not a game you can ease into. It will kick your ass over and over. With only six levels, this is a welcoming challenge and keeps the game interesting. However, when you die, you are forced to restart the level from the very beginning. Old school, right? This sounds fine and maybe even preferable on paper, but unfortunately a single level can be nearly ten minutes long! Even worse, the most common culprits of your life are going to be the bosses at the very end of each level, which require a lot of trial and error with their cheap tactics, tiny weak points, and exceedingly long health bars.
Because you are literally on rails, each level is exactly the same on every playthrough. It can be aggravating to have to replay so much after one measly mistake, and after enough tries the challenge can flip from fun to monotonous. There's a fine line between old school perseverance and actual frustration, and Bit.Trip Fate sometimes crosses it. Fortunately, if you're feeling hounded, Gaijin Games has added a brand new "Easy" mode. Oh, and a "Hard" mode. You know, if you want to make yourself absolutely miserable.
Bit.Trip Fate's biggest flaw is that despite being a hectic shoot ‘em up, feedback upon hitting foes is nonexistent. Aside from your mode bar slowly filling in the corner, you are given no indication whether or not your bullets are actually hitting anybody, at least not until they die. Striking an enemy does not cause it to flash, flinch, create a sound, or anything at all. You'll end up shooting across the screen in vague directions hoping your bullets are doing their job. I find this incredibly peculiar, as the Bit.Trip series is renowned for its use of sound design, and yet Fate drops the ball.
Except for with the music. Oh, does this deliver! Like its previous titles, Bit.Trip Fate uses music to enhance and motivate each level, and it pulls this off beautifully. The chiptune inspired dubstep is rather ominous in accordance with the darker setting, and, well, it's really freakin' awesome! Fate even delays enemy death so they explode in rhythm with the music. Granted, this just makes the no-feedback problem even worse, but the musical result is fascinating!
Bit.Trip Fate is a challenging, unique shooter that will both entertain and frustrate you to no end. It has very few issues, but because of its simplistic nature, they stand out like white on black. Simplicity can create the best kind of gaming bliss, but Bit.Trip Fate falls a tad short. For only $10 on Steam, Fate may be well worth the time and money to Bit.Trip fans and old-school gamers who don't mind the minor flaws, but be warned! This Fate is not for the faint of heart. Most players will set it aside and pick Runner 2 back up instead.