Bit.Trip Runner is a throwback to rhythm games of yesterday. In today’s world of plastic guitars and drum kits, Runner used the music as a gameplay element rather than a goal unto itself. It started by realizing that player actions enhanced the soundtrack, and it culminated in playing a new level just as much by ear as by eye. Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien continues that tradition, and improves upon its predecessor in every way.
While I prefer the graphical style of the first game, there is no denying that Runner2 looks good. Gameplay elements stand out, characters are well-animated and backgrounds are beautiful without overpowering the main scene. Runner2 is an easier game overall; it’s also a longer and deeper game. Throughout each level, Commander Video will pick up gold pieces and plus signs while jumping and sliding over enemies, kicking down stop signs, blocking beats and using spring boards to reach otherwise unattainable heights. The commander has picked up new skills in duck-jumping, jump-kicking and dancing for bonus points.
Runner2 is largely the same across platforms, with the exception of a few missing visual effects here and there. The one notable exception: the Wii U, with its off-TV play. There’s no noticeable lag on the GamePad, somehow, and it makes for a great option. - Graham Russell
To balance the added difficulty that comes with new skills and longer levels, Gaijin added mid-level checkpoints and the ability to replay bonus levels from the world map. The map contains five worlds, and each of those has 10 or more levels. Some levels have multiple exits, while others have a treasure chest containing either a new character or a costume.
Levels lend themselves to leaderboard comparison and high score chasing as well. While some alternate paths lead to optional exits that unlock optional levels, others are just harder paths featuring more obstacles which yield a higher score. The checkpoints are optional as well. If Commander Video jumps over one instead of running through it, the player gets a score bonus, but failing carries a heavier consequence and the player restarts at the beginning of the level. It’s a simple concept, but that little bit of risk versus reward makes the checkpoints a great tool for players looking to experience all of the level, and one more opportunity for score for those that desperately want to surpass their buddy’s score.
Fun for novices
As someone who wasn’t exactly good enough to play the first game, I really appreciate Runner2’s format. You can get through levels without a flawless run, which lets you strive for greatness when you wish and not get stuck the rest of the time. It makes runs like mine in the above video (don’t blame Justin; he’s much better) an option. - Graham Russell
Runner2 is easier than the original game, but it’s no slouch, and the checkpoints are a great addition. Because of their addition, Runner2 makes it easier to indulge in “just one more level.” Replaying levels means that it’s possible to grab all of the gold in one run, finding the key and chest on the next and finally nabbing the gold cartridge to unlock the retro level on the third. After three successful runs, then you replay for score and figure out all of the places to insert a dance move for bonus points.
Runner2 is a rare thing: a sequel that feels familiar, while adding scads of great new concepts and lengthening the experience. Moving from level to level on the Super Mario World-esque world map and replaying levels for score and completion scratches a great itch and is great for five minutes or three hours. You’ll keep coming back to it to get just a little bit better at a level, unlock the next costume or experience a game with great music that you get to be a part of.
Pros: Interactive soundtrack, plenty of unlockables, new moves and checkpoints make it more approachable without dumbing it down
Cons: A controller is central to the experience, even on PC