We often see the case of a game from a genre well-realized on consoles, dedicated handhelds, or PCs releasing on mobile. Sometimes, we even see these games make their way over to the platforms where their genres were born or popularized. For example, Chaos Rings [$3.99] is a JRPG, a genre popularized by consoles, that was released on mobiles first, and then eventually making its way to the Playstation Vita. It's considerably more rare, due to the relative youth of the mobile platform, to see a game from a genre popularized on mobiles release on consoles. Such was the case with Bit.Trip Runner, an auto-running game released for Wii, with later releases on 3DS and Steam. With the release of the sequel, developer Gaijin Games decided to really go big, putting the game out on pretty much every platform under the sun including, in a slightly modified form, iOS.

Bit.Trip Run! [$3.99] is a port of Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, given a new title presumably either because the first game was not released on iOS or perhaps to reflect that this is a slightly different game than the other versions. Quite a few things had to be altered to make the transition to pure touch controls. Although it's basically a stage-based auto-runner, Runner 2 used quite a few buttons. Commander Video, the hero of the game, has many different actions, using every direction plus multiple buttons, something that obviously wasn't going to work as-is on mobile. A few things had to be simplified to even make it doable, and even then, as I'll go into a little later, things didn't turn out perfectly peachy.

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Chances are, if you're familiar with the Bit.Trip games, you know they stand for three things: simple, rhythm-based gameplay, extreme difficulty, and 8-bit visuals. Bit.Trip Run! keeps one, tones down another, and tosses the last, for the most part. In terms of gameplay, it's just as simple as ever. Guide Commander Video through each stage, jumping, sliding, and otherwise avoiding obstacles while trying to grab all of the gold scattered around. The game gradually introduces new obstacles and the means to pass them, going from simple hopping exercises to very complicated sequences of actions before you even notice. The stages are grouped into worlds, and at the end of each world, you'll face a boss. Presently, only three of the five worlds found in other versions are available, but Gaijin Games are promising a free update with the others soon. Still, with 30 regular stages and almost as many unlockable ones, there's quite a lot here as it is.

The simple 8-bit visuals seen in previous games in the series have been jettisoned in favor of fluidly-animated, absolutely gorgeous polygonal graphics. Each of the three different worlds are visually distinct, with deep, vibrant backgrounds full of rich colors. I love the look of the game, but one negative point of these more complex visuals is that it's occasionally hard to spot the obstacles thanks to the busy backgrounds. The first world in particular is bad for this, thanks to its muted pastel palette. If you're truly pining for some retro charm, many of the unlockable stages are done up in a NES-like style, but be warned, they play by harder rules than the normal stages.

One of the defining elements of the original Bit.Trip Runner was how hard it was. The stages were pretty long, and one mistake would send you packing back to the start with nothing to show for it but a little knowledge and a wounded pride. For some gamers, that was part of why they loved the game, but for others, it meant a lot of the game was a test of frustration. Gaijin Games apparently heard the gripes, because the sequel packs a nice little checkpoint into every stage, meaning one little mistake can only cost you up to half the stage now. On top of that, many of the stages now contain branching paths, clearly marked according to their difficulty. Finally, the sequel offers multiple difficulty settings that you can adjust between stages. With these tweaks to the challenge, just about everyone should be able to experience the whole game, while still leaving in plenty of old-school bite for those who want it.

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There's plenty of unlockable stuff, though the means of getting it is one of the ways the iOS version differs from the others. In the other versions of the game, you needed to find keys and unlock chests, often involving taking the hardest route through stages. In the iOS version, you need only exchange the gold you've picked up to unlock all of the stages, characters, and costumes. I'm not really sure which approach I like better. It's nice to let everyone have a crack at the extra content regardless of skill level, but it's also good to have some incentive to go for the more difficult routes rather than just challenging oneself. At any rate, you'll be able to unlock tons of levels, several bizarre characters, and a pile of costumes, and absolutely none of it is behind an IAP paywall because, hey, there isn't any IAP at all.

The biggest difference is, naturally, the control setup, with plenty of level alterations to try to accommodate the new controls. Jumping is performed by a tap on the screen, sliding is done by swiping downwards, blocking and kicking are assigned to the same swipe-right motion, dancing is swipe-left, springs are automatic, and the loop-de-loops and box obstacles are a button you just have to tap. The slide-jumps and slide-kicks have been cut altogether, which is probably for the best. It's as good an effort to map things as one could hope for, but there are still some problems. Since obstacles come fast and furious, it would be very hard to tap the screen as fast as is occasionally necessary, so the developers have lightened the load a little by adding a lot of auto-jumping pads to the levels in places where consecutive jumps would be required. Additionally, many of the levels have been redesigned with obtacles rearranged to make things a lot more forgiving.

It's very clear strong efforts have been made to make this work, and it's mostly a success. I sometimes had situations where a swipe was read as a jump, to fatal results, and jumping doesn't feel quite as instant as I'd have liked. The 8-bit unlockable levels, designed with considerably fewer crutches than the normal stages, powerfully demonstrate the drawbacks to the touch controls. Still, it's a wonder such a hectic game that originally used so many buttons came out this well.

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So, it's an excellent sequel, and a pretty good port, but with so many runners on iOS, how does it fare compared to the competition? Quite well, I'd say. First of all, in terms of production values, it's incredibly slick. The game is beautiful, polished, and naturally has a great soundtrack. Brief cut-scenes, narrated by Super Mario himself, Charles Martinet, introduce the game and each stage. It's a game that's designed to be beaten through practice and skill, with no designs whatsoever on enticing you to pick up IAPs, which sets it apart from most of the auto-running games available. While many runners start off dead simple and work their way up to near-impossible, Bit.Trip Run! has a very smooth and fair difficulty curve. When it reachest its most hectic points and the deaths start to rack up, it still never feels unfair.

A lot of that is owing to a lack of random elements, preventing the kinds of accidental no-win situations that come up in many runners. The lack of any random aspects cuts down a bit on replay value compared to other games in the genre, but with branching paths, loads of unlockables, and a lot of room here for finesse play to achieve higher scores, there's plenty of incentive to tackle stages repeatedly.

Its console origins make it feel somewhat unique in the iOS runner pool. The design reflects the sensibilities of that market, making for something more mechanically complex and carefully laid out than we usually see in this genre. I'm never happy to see big coming soon signs in lieu of a proper ending, and the packed-to-the-bursting-point controls can cause frustrating let-downs, but on the whole, I think Bit.Trip Run! accomplishes the somewhat lofty goal of being a worthy premium-priced entry to a genre with no shortage of great freebies.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • toxiccheese

    Ok, I might have to check it out. The review sold me.

    • shadax

      I recommend playing it on PC if you can. It's fun on mobile, but I found it to be frustrating with touch controls.

  • Elmo Rabisto

    Oh wow a runner game

    • shadax

      Way better than any runner I've ever played.

      I'd argue its a runner/rhythm game. Also, superior level design, music, controls and no IAP.

      It's very unique and definitely better than your average rushed runner.

      • PVPSAAAAN

        "no IAP"... Just updated with IAP :(
        Thank god I didn't buy it, new it was coming

    • Jake7905

      Actually, you're wrong. This isn't just 'another' runner game; this is THE runner game, and it leaves it's competition in the (digital) dust.

    • Nick

      Wow, that has to be one of the most boneheaded comments I've seen, and I've seen A LOT.
      This game runs over $15 on consoles, it's about as comparable to the "runner game genre" as saying Super Meat Boy is a "typical platformer"
      It combines so many other factors that put it leagues ahead of pretty much everything else out there. A simple Google search would have certainly prevented you from looking as foolish as you do.

      • shadax

        Also notable, for 16 bucks you can get the version that comes with bit runner 1. I haven't played much of it since BR2 is totally taking up my time.

        Gotta get all those achievements!!!

  • 2banrey7

    Still don't know if I should buy this one as there is good games coming out

    • nini

      It's a good game so yes?

  • InkyTheGhost

    The control lag is pretty frustrating. And it's non-retina on my 4S, and I honestly don't think it looks very good.
    That said, I don't regret the purchase at all. I'm a big bit.trip fan, and the devs are responsive in the forums, and have said they are working on the controls. And the music, as always, is fantastic.

    • 2banrey7

      Worth getting then

      • InkyTheGhost

        If you're asking, I'd say yes. Some people are not experiencing control issues. And even with these flaws, it's a standout game.

      • Lazer Kat

        Agreed.
        Controls are frustratingly laggy, and simply unplayable at times.
        Sme how this game is so great I forgive it.

        I'm confident a fix will come soon, and it will be one of the best games out soon.

    • http://www.silentrocco.com/ Silent Rocco

      Absolutely signing that. Graphics are not amazing and the controls are frustrating. Still fun when it works.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com/ Silent Rocco

    Hate the controls. Really killing it for me here.

    • shadax

      Yeah it's unfortunate. I play the PC version with an Xbox controller and it's a blast.

      Couldn't stick with the mobile version either.

  • Nemerlebb

    Devs said they're working on alternative controls and fixes for the game. I trust them on this and so should you. Don't let that deter you from owning this gem. Also if you're into level-sized auto runners I'd give Wind-Up Knight a go. It's very similar to this and it's free! You unlock later levels either by paying OR in-game currency :)

    • Jesse7277

      Thanks for the recommendation. Downloading wind-up knight now. Love platformers.

      • Lazer Kat

        Wind-Up Knight is amazing.
        It isn't similar to BTR, in my opinion. But it is great.

      • Nemerlebb

        it's similar in a way that it's an auto-runner cut into levels that throws obstacles at you. Some mechanisms are the same (sliding,jumping,basic levels that unlock retro levels) but like you said there are some differences (graphic wise, BTR is more rhythm based).

      • Nemerlebb

        most welcome! I recommend liking the facebook/google+ pages for easy 200 coins. Also save your in-game currency to unlock chapters instead of wasting them on shop items (that way you can keep playing for free, and it's more fun and challenging that way bu not using extra items).

  • Andy C83

    I had no control problems on the iPod Touch 5th gen and had a great time completing the first world. Unfortunately I then proceeded to have all of my progress wiped and be locked out of all levels.

    I think this could be a great iOS game but it does need a few updates first. I don't regret buying it, I'm happy to support Gaijin Games and hope they bring other games to iOS; plus it was fun before I encountered problems. Ultimately though I think this game would be better experienced on another platform; I eagerly await the Vita version.

  • Jesse7277

    This game is an excellent port. The controls need very slight tweaking. I prefer it on my iPad to my ps3. I have had some frame rate issues on my iPad mini as well as my iPhone 5. I've found that a hard reset seems to fix that problem intermittently. I paid $14.99 on psn and substantially less on iOS for nearly the exact same game. If you're deciding which version to get go with iOS. Great game. One of the best platformers on iOS. Next week Fiesta run!

  • Lazer Kat

    I feel like, in the interest of being fair and open, they should have commented about how truly bad the delay really is with the controls.

    I realize it isn't bad for everyone, but its truly unplayable for me and lots of other people.

    • Nick

      I agree, completely. There are FAR too many people commenting on the controls that it seems strange that it wasn't mentioned here.
      Games like this and Super Meat Boy are pinpoint precision games, touchscreen controls do not lend themselves to being precise enough.
      I don't mind being frustrated by a difficult game, that's part of the charm, but I DO mind being frustrated because of the game not recognizing what I want to do. It shouldn't matter if the game is $1 or $20.

    • Jesse7277

      I find the term unplayable subjective. I for example have completed the game on hard and perfected every level. I'd say maybe 12 deaths were due to poor control response. I agree the controls need tweaked and the dev is aware of and responsive to the issue. I've found using the tip of my finger instead of the pad a much better way to input the controls. Maybe that'll help.

      • Lazer Kat

        As I said, not everyone is experiencing this. My delay is so bad that completing some levels is physically impossible, because two jumps back to back simply won't register quick enough.

  • Nick

    It has been a long time since I've seen such divisive thoughts on a game.
    Not the game itself, but the controls. It seems for every person saying the controls are excellent, there's one saying the controls are terrible and ruin the experience.

    I know one thing, the series is amazing. It's the Super Meat Boy of runners, in both polish and difficulty.

    I might hold off for the time being, not because I don't think it's an excellent game, but the controls aren't solid enough yet for me. I don't want laggy controls to ruin the game.

    My fingers are crossed that the iOS 7 controller support that's been promised will happen before September of next year =/. While my whole point about using my iPad/iPhone instead of my console is escaping from a controller, a game like this just needs that. And I'd have a much easier time using a simple, small controller versus the huge monster console controllers.

    • Jesse7277

      It's really not as bad as some would lead you to think. The controls are quite touchy but once you get a feel they rarely cause issue. It's a gem of a game. I found the frame rat issues to be much more bothersome than controls but a hard reset seemed to help with that.

    • Lazer Kat

      It isn't the control scheme that's bad, its the delay when touching jump that's unacceptable.

  • Adsinjapan

    I bought this as soon as it became available and I HAVE been enjoying it, but honestly, I wouldn't have given it the score that it got.
    The major problem for me in this game is the controls that were mentioned.
    They're just not responsive enough and the tiniest mistake really does cost you. I've been steaming with frustration repeatedly over the course of a single level simply because the game read my inputs wrong. Slides and blocks are constantly read as a jump command and I find my self flung back to the only checkpoint waaaaaay back into the level.

    So yeah, until the devs work around that or add a separate jump button, knock another half star off the score for me.

  • http://www.frivjogo.info/ Friv Jogos

    Very impressive article. I have read each and every point and found it very interesting

  • Ahiru Nakamura

    is this anything like the 1st installment? I played it on Steam just for the cards, and man that was one horrid experience…

  • ragehaver

    This game is nearly unplayable on iPhone 4S. I know the devs said they will fix it, but keep that mind mind before you purchase it.

    I completed the original on PC. After playing 5 levels on the 4S, I'm 100% sure the later levels would be impossible. Guess I'll wait for my 5S to show up.

  • Kloo13

    This Bit.trip is really awesome! if you are looking for a good platformer on iOS you can try Pixhelland, very fun too!

  • PVPSAAAAN

    Held back my money after seeing that they will update the game with an in-game store fearing IAPs. Turns out I was correct. Spending $4 on a game and then having to pay for IAPs? These developers are money-hungry and they're taking advantage of the IAPs concept.

    And honestly, I was REALLY looking forward to playing this game but IAPs are an immediate turn-off for me.

  • rco

    This reminds me a lot of Ms. Splosion Man. Long cut scenes, fancy menu design, elaborate 3D models, paired with shallow gameplay and mediocre controls. One of the principal things you do in this game is jump -- the lag on the jump button ruins the game. I'm playing on a 5s, so I'm comfortable saying that the jump lag is 100% the devs' fault. I'd give this 2.5 stars, 3 tops.

BIT.TRIP RUN! Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4.5