BEAT the BITS in this TRIP down memory lane.
BIT.TRIP BEAT is the debut game for both Choice Provisions (once known as Gaijin Games) and Commander Video, indie superstar. Released back in 2009 on the Wii, this is the game that put Choice Provisions on the map. The aim is to reflect back incoming projectiles to the tune of chiptune-inspired tracks produced by Bit Shifter, an expert at creating synthesized sound.
In order to properly reflect back projectiles (Beats), one must tilt their controller in accordance to the location of the incoming shots. Gyro can be turned off in the options for those who can’t play comfortably with motion controls, but I highly recommend giving them a shot if you can. The game has three difficulty options, easy, normal, and hard, and three levels dubbed “TRANSITION,” “DESCENT,” and “GROWTH.” The game isn’t long by any means, and the main challenge comes from improving your score and shooting for the top of the leaderboards. There are also achievements to unlock for those with an itch to 100% it.
While playing BIT.TRIP BEAT, your score will reflect how the game presents itself in the form of “MODES.” You start in HYPER MODE, and if you earn a high enough combo, you can elevate to MEGA MODE and unlock a potential score multiplier. MEGA MODE has additional instrumentation and more visual effects than HYPER MODE. If you miss too many Beats, however, you descend to NETHER MODE and the screen turns black and white and all background music is muted. If you lose here, the game ends and you have to try again from the beginning. This system is incredibly addicting, if not brutally punishing at times. The addition and loss of color and music depending on your skill is a super satisfying way to encourage improvement.
There is a story mode featuring wild visuals and set pieces to push the player onward, but it’s rather simplistic. The main draws are definitely the gameplay and presentation.
The Atari-esque aesthetic with the addition of wonderful colors and modernized synth-style music is a perfect blend and makes it easy to lose yourself for hours. This game is truly addicting, and it can be hard to put down at times. Being a WiiWare game originally, I can feel the “just one more level” design philosophy DNA at work. The soundtrack is especially excellent and contributes The game runs perfectly smoothly, and I have absolutely zero performance issues to report. A solid frame rate is essential for a music-based action game, and it’s clear that Choice Provisions understood this.
Be warned, however, that BIT.TRIP games on Switch have a critical flaw that can leave them unplayable. The games tend to randomly malfunction and prevent the player from starting the game. The screen turns completely black and unfortunately, the only way to fix it is to restart your Switch. While this is a seemingly simple solution, it resets all the scores on the leaderboard and restarts all of your story progress. Hopefully, Choice Provisions can get this sorted out down the line, but as it stands, this is a major issue.
BIT.TRIP BEAT is an excellent game that still holds up a decade later. I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in the legacy of Commander Video, searching for a bite-sized experience, or those who seek a rhythm-based challenge. Though you should keep in mind that this release is marred by a pretty significant bug.