The stylish and always tricky Bit.Trip music series returned with a surprise third entry on display this weekend in Seattle. I believe this is the Bit.Trip game I'll be good at.
What Is It? Bit.Trip Void is the fall-scheduled downloadable Wii follow-up to Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Core. All developed by Gaijin Games, the three titles feature a common focus on pattern-matching music gaming, using abstract retro gaming visuals and soundtracks contributed or inspired by Chiptunes musicians. Each game has utilised a single input element of the Wii's control scheme. The first involved rotating the Wii remote precisely. The second required well-timed presses on the d-pad. The new game is built around movement of the Wii Nunchuk's analogue stick.
What We Saw Like many other music games, the Bit.Trip titles' levels are comprised of individual songs. I tried one song level being demoed in Nintendo's booth at the Penny Arcade Expo. I didn't clear it, but I think I got pretty far — far enough to experience the series' signature and oh-so-clever patterns. The essential Bit.Tip experience is to see a swarm of dots to react to on the screen and have the following occur: Your brain tells you you can't correctly connect to them all; your hands try anyway and you pull it off; your ears, as a result, hear good music that, all along, had its beat match the patterns the game forced you to move in. It happened to me in Void multiple times in my short session and, as ever, was a pleasure.
How Far Along Is It? Gaijin Games indicates that the game is set for a fall release, but it wasn't clear how many other song levels are as polished as the one I tried. My level, tricky as it was, felt feature-complete.
What Needs Improvement? Not Much: The Bit.Trip games have had catchy electronic music and fun, if very challenging, gameplay. Each game has required the player to react to the movements of dots being shot through the screen. Players must either make proper contact with those dots to keep a song building and to gain points. Or they risk failing and having the audio and visuals of the game decay as a consequence. If the games have had a weakness it was that they became too difficult too soon. They required eye-watering concentration and were stingy with checkpointing or restarts. The press materials for the new game, Void, indicate that there will be mid-level checkpoints. So... problem solved?
What Should Stay The Same? New Control Scheme: The controls of Void are the most comfortable in the series. The player uses the analogue stick to move a black circle into the path of black dots that are being shot across the screen. The player wants to keep their circle out of the trajectory of white dots. Making contact with the black dots keeps the game's music going and builds a score multiplier. But those collisions also cause the controllable black circle to grow and therefore be more prone to contact with white dots, which cancels the score multiplier. That's the risk/reward to this game, encouraging near-miss movement of the growing circle as maximum points tally. By pressing a button, the player can expel their circle's added mass, cashing in their points and shrinking for better maneuverability. It was hard to hear at PAX, but I believe that the songs build primarily when you're cashing in points, but I'm not certain.
Graphics and Sound: This is another Bit.Trip game, and therefore another feast for eyes that can enjoy a modern riff on the graphic styles and fonts of the Atari 2600 age of gaming. And another soundtrack is here of pure game-driven electronic music, this time some of it (all?) provided by Chiptunes scene favourite Nullsleep.
Final Thoughts With slightly easier controls and a more forgiving progression system, Bit.Trip Void could be the most gamer-friendly edition of Gaijin Games' music series. If the first two Bit.Trip games haven't satiated you, or if you were looking for a less daunting on-ramp, follow the progress of this one.