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BIT.TRIP VOID - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Gaijin Games / Aksys Games | 1-2 Players (co-operative) | Out Now | 600 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller
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25th December 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

Since Bit.Trip BEAT was released, it became evident that the developers over at Gaijin Games have a gift when it comes to game development. The Bit.Trip series is now three games in with the latest release of Bit.Trip VOID, and each game has successfully brought something new to the table without becoming dry and worn out - exactly what a series should be! There's no doubt in my mind that Bit.Trip VOID is just as recommendable as BEAT was when it first came out, if not more so. VOID is an even bigger love letter to retro fans than BEAT was, and there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't download this.

    This time around, players take control of a small pixellated circle or "void" that can grow to be more than 5x its original size simply by consuming black bits that scroll across the screen. The more bits you consume, the bigger your pixel will become and the more points you'll earn. While black bits can increase your size, touching a white bit will knock the ambitious circle back to its small stature, thereby disrupting any combo's you've had up until that point. It's pretty cool watching your dinky little pixel grow to become an enormous void that fills the entire screen; however, it's also very risky to keep your void at such a large size even for just 5 seconds. So to keep your score going, you can press A to spew out whatever bits you collected and return to normal size instantly. As a result, players quickly learn when to push for a higher score and when to ease off.

    Just like its precedessors BEAT and CORE, Bit.Trip VOID features a control scheme that isn't shared with other games in the series. This time, Gaijin Games decided to approach analog-based gameplay, controlling the pixellated circle with the use of the Nunchuk or the Classic Controller. The game has really smooth controls throughout and never lacks in fluidity, even when the void is of a larger magnitude. In spite of this, the game is still very challenging, something that may come as a surprise if you think gameplay seems a tad simplistic in nature. There's even less time to prepare yourself for oncoming bits than in other games in the series, and on their first couple runs, players will have to stay on their toes as both black and white bits can come from any direction on the screen. 

After a couple of runs, you'll start to memorize the sequences and patterns, a typical action for those that play rhythm games. But even experienced players will find the gameplay challenging, complicated further by the length of each song. Further, attaining a Perfect bonus is very hard to come by, even more so when compared to CORE and BEAT, but the game does reward adventurous gamers if they do have the patience to aim for perfection. Despite how hard the game can get, Bit.Trip VOID boasts something that many games cannot. There's a fine balance that Gaijin Games has worked towards with this game and they've been careful not to overstep it. Although it's difficult, it's not too frustrating either; in fact, the challenging elements of the game are executed in such a way that it motivates the player to press onwards and play songs more than once.

    Up to 4 players can join in the action of this retro-inspired venture and work co-operatively as a team. Teamwork is a big key this time around since one person can ruin a whole combo, or even hurl you into Nether mode. Expect to be hurling comments to the people beside you, telling them what to do, what not to do, and advising them how to prepare for the next wave of attacks. In past Bit.Trip games, one person could really handle a whole song on their own but VOID forces players to work in sync like a well-oiled machine. As a whole, it's an excellent co-op experience and doesn't give the feeling of afterthought material. 

    VOID marks the return of Challenge events which act as mini-bonus rounds at different intervals during a song. Challenge events this time around are pretty cool, and take a good deal of patience to conquer, but it's really gratifying to clear one with the maximum amount of bonus points. Another returning feature is the ability to transition to different levels of play when you do well in the game. It should be of no surprise that the music gets heavier as you enter Mega and Hyper mode if you've been following the series up 'til now. You can definitely feel the atmosphere improve as you enter Hyper mode but ultimately, it's not as flashy as what was seen in CORE. But, there's a good reason for this! VOID marks the addition of the new Ultra mode, a step-up above Hyper mode that's sure to thrill you. So much so, in fact, that you may find yourself paranoid not to mess up so as to avoid getting knocked back down a level. It's a really sweet-looking space to enter into with stronger vibes coming from the backbeats as well as some beautiful integration from the presentation in the background.

Another new feature that Gaijin Games has incorporated is the addition of checkpoints in between songs. There are three checkpoints that appear at well-placed intervals during each of the game's three levels, and during these your points are tallied and bonuses are awarded to arrive at an overall score. Checkpoints are integrated really well, for they never disrupt the background music. You can press the A Button to move on at any time but the music doesn't stop and randomly pick it up again. Instead, the music flows rather nicely as you move past the small break in gameplay, and it's all integrated rather well. The checkpoint system is a great new addition as it helps space out the game, especially with how lengthy each song is. It allows you to take a break in between without fearing that you'll be unprepared for the next onslaught of bits once you resume gameplay, so in that respect, it's definitely a success. In addition, players have the option to earn Credits (arcade game, anyone?) once you achieve a certain amount of points that can grant you a Continue if you happen to get a Game Over. In order to continue on, though, you'll be forced to get rid of all the points you've achieve thus far. Perhaps it would've been better if it only took a fraction of your points, but even still, it all harks back to arcade games of old, so it does make sense in the long run. 

    Bit.Trip VOID also takes advantage of elements that other Bit.Trip series haven't been able to capture, and that's the idea of freedom and control. In VOID, players can travel all around the screen rather than being restricted to a set spot as was the case in BEAT and CORE. It's also because of this new element that players have a greater sense of control over how the beats transition than ever before. You can almost create your own sense of rhythm based on your timing and how fast or slow you move towards the black bits. Additionally, other games in the series have allowed you to create your own background noises to the beat of the music through the press of a button, but never before has it been so well used than in this game. VOID has an even bigger focus on interacting with the beats, in part thanks to the aforementioned sense of control. Coupled with the ability to make your own "bleep" noises, this, in effect, allows you to form your own sense of rhythm to go in tune with the background music. The game even rewards you for developing your own musical style, as pressing the + Button will have a twofold effect: create the noises you desire and, in some cases, even increase your score multiplier! It's definitely the best use of this element yet. In summary, both of these elements allow for an immersive feel that really sets VOID apart from other games in the series. The best part is, it's integrated so wonderfully that it's likely that you won't even notice the first time you play.

We've touched on the game's presentation a couple of times already but it wouldn't be fair to write a review of this game without making mention of the work of Gaijin Games in this regard. Thanks to some well-used design choices, the game has an overarching retro feel to it that's guaranteed to appease, especially to old-school gamers. Background effects are really impressive with pixelated patterns floating across the screen, but they never overwhelm you, even when they transition between light and dark. Although the first stage is colourful, the second stage in the game, Ego, is just full of great design, with some nice elements of nostalgia mixed in as well. At certain parts during the song, you'll see pixellated words such as "inspiration" appear on-screen in the background, that not only gets you thinking but also adds to the sensation that VOID brings with its addictive gameplay. The boss stage is very nostalgic and it's sure to bring a smile to your face. It's something you're better off seeing for yourself so you can appreciate it in greater depth, so please don't try to spoil it for yourself! 

    Before we wrap up this review, there's something that we'd like to draw everyone's attention to that sticks out like a sore thumb. You'll notice that Bit.Trip BEAT and CORE featured a great on-screen display that really gave players a sense of progression. In doing their best to replicate the retro feel, Gaijin Games didn't decide to add a display, and although it may seem odd at first, the developers really deserve praise for not adding it in. Many generations ago, games didn't use overly-complicated specifics and displays. All that existed was the main gameplay, and maybe some text along here and there; but in many cases, you wouldn't see a HUD of sorts, and this is reflected in VOID as well. You may not have indications this time around or warnings that tell you when you're verring into Nether mode territory, but really, this is what old-school gaming is all about! Even down to this aspect, VOID excels at having a strong retro focus and you can tell that a lot of thought went into the making of the game.

    Bit.Trip VOID is an excellent mood-lifter and an all-around wonderfully-made game thanks to its strong focus towards having a retro theme. The game contains even more retro elements than other games in the series and old-time gamers will find everything about the game to be sweet-sounding. Some may find the stages to be long but the new checkpoint system helps break up gameplay to make it more palatable for those with shorter attention spans. VOID may be difficult, but the challenging elements don't overshadow how enjoyable the game really is. Whether you've recently taken up gaming or if you've been playing since a very young age, VOID will assuredly click with you and keep you coming back for more. Well done, Gaijin Games. Well done.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10  - Addictive, fun and thoroughly enjoyable; maintains an excellent balance of challenge without becoming too frustrating
Presentation 10/10 - Everything about the game's presentation is just full of win; Ultra Mode is worth striving towards
Enjoyment 5/5 - Retro fans will absolutely eat this up; delivers an excellent co-op and single player experience
Extra Content 3/5 - Three lengthy songs full of love; leaderboards add replay value; instantly replayable
Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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