And now for something completely different: a side-scrolling rail shump. BIT.TRIP FATE is the 5th game in the BIT.TRIP series and the first one that I have played.
Instead of being able to fly around the screen as he pleases, Commander Video is limited to moving back and forth along a line that goes across the screen in different directions. The Nunchuck is used to move him along the line and the Wiimote is used to aim and fire his blaster at enemies. The dual analogs of the a Classic Controller can also be used to move and fire. Despite his size, the Commander’s only vulnerable spot is the cross in his center.
Helper characters can be picked up that change up Commander Video’s blaster and help protect him for a short period of time as he ‘rides the vibe’ through the game’s six levels. As enemies are defeated, they drop red crosses that can be picked up to power up Commander Video’s blaster and allow him to take more hits before he is destroyed.
Old-School Presentation – BIT.TRIP FATE’s graphics look like an Atari 2600 on steroids. Combined with a chiptune soundtrack and retro sound effects, the game is a unique “modern retro” experience. Some enemies and background objects are occasionally rendered with polygons but they also share the game’s retro aesthetic. When enemies are destroyed, they ‘beep’ in time with the music, which is a nice touch.
Something Different – A side-scrolling shump where the player is confined to a rail with 4-bit graphics and 8-bit music is something we haven’t seen before and I have to give developer Gaijin Games credit for doing something new.
Different Isn’t Always Good – There’s a reason nobody has made a side-scrolling bullet hell shump on rails, and that’s because the concept doesn’t work very well. Shumps by their nature require precise movement and being stuck on a rail puts Commander Video in positions where he can’t help but be hit at times.
Difficult by Design – Having bosses with life bars that run the length of the screen and slowly tick away as you blast at them is okay, but forcing players to restart each level from the beginning after getting killed is a dick move that only serves to artificially lengthen the time it takes to finish game.
Bullet Hell – BIT.TRIP FATE is a “bullet hell” shump, and as such, gets extremely difficult in its boss fights. I’ve never been a big fan of this type of shooter and this game hasn’t done much to change my mind. If you go for this sort of thing, then more power to you.
Late To The Movie – You know that feeling when you start watching a show that’s almost over and you have no idea what the hell is going on? That’s what playing BIT.TRIP FATE felt like to me. I had no idea what the whole story was about, but this probably won’t be an issue for those that have played earlier games in the series.
BIT.TRIP FATE is many things. It is different, it is interesting, and it is even artistic to a certain degree. Unfortunately, it is also not fun. If you have been ‘riding the vibe’ with the series so far or are a fan of bullet hell shooters you will probably enjoy it. However, high level of frustration this game creates will quickly suck the fun out of it for everybody else. I enjoyed the first half of the game, but once I hit level 4, the game became a chore.
I think Gaijin was trying to make some kind of statement about old-school games with BIT.TRIP FATE, but in my opinion, they should have made a better game instead.
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