When the original Bit.Trip Runner from Gaijin Games made its debut on the WiiWare downloadable service in 2010, little did folks realize just how good it would end up being. The game, which puts you in control of a fast-moving hero named Commander Video as he runs through obstacle-laden courses, became a hit sensation amongst both rookie and veteran game players, due to its balanced yet still challenging difficulty scale and its 8-bit style presentation. Only the truly dedicated were able to unlock everything in the game, but it was truly worth the effort.
The game has since become a key part of Gaijin's Bit.Trip line-up, and was even included in retail releases, like the Bit.Trip Saga for Nintendo 3DS. It also made quite a dent on the Steam and Mac OSX markets, though, inexplicably, it never arrived on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network, where its audience might have flourished with possibly leaderboard integration and more stages.
But Gaijin Games wasn't about to miss out on such an opportunity the second time around. This past week, the developer released its long-awaited sequel for those platforms (and Wii U), Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. It's a game that takes the core concept of the original and brightens it with a sharper presentation, along with those online leaderboards and a bevy of unlockables, mostly aimed at those skilled enough to earn them all.
This isn't just another sequel, either – there's magic hiding within Commander Video's legs. And to prove our point, we've come up with five strategic reasons why Runner 2 manages to stand out above other downloadable games, and how it's worth every bit of its $14.99 price tag…
The Multiplier Is Your Friend
As within the first game, how your score increases over the course of each stage depends on how good you are at collecting the necessary icons. There are usually four scattered throughout each one. At first, they're relatively easy to reach, but as you move into later levels of the game, they become much more difficult to find and snag, but they're certainly worth it.
With each one you pick up, you gain a new multiplier level, adding to your total score at the end of the round. You start off with Mega, before moving on to the second one, Super; and eventually reaching Ultra and Extra. You'll know if you have them all before stage's end, because Commander Video will be glowing with a rainbow trail behind him.
These score multipliers – along with being able to skip the checkpoint midway through the stage and getting a bullseye in the cannon mini-game at its conclusion – go a long way to boosting your score, so do whatever you can to make every opportunity yours. And if you screw up, hey, you can start all over again without too big a penalty.
There's a Difficulty Level For Everyone
One good thing about Runner 2 is its approachability. Not only does it have one of the friendliest presentations in a game these days (complete with stellar narration by Mario voice Charles Martinet), but it also has three adjustable difficulty settings. That way, if you're not making a run as successfully as you'd like, you can tone it down and still reap the rewards. Meanwhile, those who consider themselves "Runner pros" (you know who you are) can go right to a higher difficulty and collect everything you can.
Play around with it and see what setting is right for you. There's no shame with running on easy the first time around…
You Do More Than Just Jump
At first, some of you may be thrown off by the fact that Commander Video doesn't have much in the way of control, outside of jumping. But this is something that sees expansion over the course of Runner 2. You soon become capable of other abilities, including gliding (excellent for getting over large gaps and collecting piles of gold in the air), sliding (avoiding objects that can't simply be jumped over), and kicking (knocking something out of the way). Later on, you'll also be introduced to being able to use a shield, as well as slide-kicking, getting the best of both worlds as you move an object aside without losing momentum.
Some of these techniques take getting used to, but, again, you can run through the game without much penalty, so just keep at it.
The More You Collect, The More Bonuses You Unlock
One real advantage you'll find in Runner 2 is the ability to unlock bonus items as you work at it. Sure, it's fun sprinting through each stage just to see what it's like, but then you can buckle down in a dedicated manner, collect all the gold and multiplier power-ups, and then unlock the five bonus stages scattered throughout. We won't spoil them here, but if you recall the genius of the original game's bonus rounds (akin to the Atari 2600 classic Pitfall!), then you ain't seen nothing yet.
Again, it's motivation to get you to "plug away" at it until you collect every little thing. Just keep at it.
Leaderboards Are Based On Score, Not Running
Some might wonder why a game like Runner 2 has leaderboards, citing, "Well, there's only so much of a high score you can get, right?" Not really. Aside from the multiplier icons, finishing a game without hitting the midway checkpoint, and collecting every single thing in each stage, there's many advantages to boosting your score. Add to that the cannon mini-game at the end, with its swiveling aiming not guaranteeing a bullseye every time (unless you master its timing), and you have more than enough opportunity to top your friends. Just watch out for the crazy folks who dwell on the hardest difficulty – they're crazy good at this game. (But who knows, you might be one day, too.)
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is available now for PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Marketplace, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux via Steam and the Wii U eShop.