Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of September 27, 2010, you should insert credit into: “Bit.Trip.Beat”
There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. Video games nowadays have 5.1 Dolby surround sound, finely detailed realistic graphics and control schemes that demand serious dedication to master. And over the last few years, the retro games movement has responded with a blossoming of games that harken back to the days of the Atari 2600 or the NES. These games mine gamers’ collective memory with blocky graphics, 8-bit soundtracks and minimal controls. Mileage tends to vary as whether these titles exist as nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake or actually have clever new gameplay mechanics.
“Bit.Trip.Beat” is hardcore retro, in every meaning of the phrase. Crafted by Gaijin Games, it originally landed on Nintendo’s WiiWare download service last year. The version I’m recommending this week is the iOS iteration. “B.T.B” just debuted on the iTunes Store this week and it’s well worth your cash.
It’s basically an ode to “Pong,” which tasks players to rebound blocks that come from the right side of the screen. But the guys and gals at Gaijin add a few wrinkles that make the elementary gameplay more tense. Meters at the top and bottom measure your success and if you miss too any beats, then you go into the Nether Zone. This near-death overlay looks just like Pong did back in the day: black field with stark-white moving elements. Rebound enough beats in Nether and you win your way back to glorious color. The simple play of “B.T.B” gets thrown a few curves with beats that bend, come at angles and in double and triple formation. The electronic music is great and the difficulty is very challenging. Yet, the urge to create epic combos and notch ever-higher scores will keep you coming back.
Controls differ from iPhone and iPad. On the smaller iDevice, you tilt to control the cursor. In an odd way, this feels very reminiscent of spinning the paddles of the original Pong controllers. It’s tough to be as precise as required but that’s part of the challenge. “Bit.Trip.Beat HD” for the iPad lets players use a finger anywhere on the screen to move the cursor. This gives more precision but all the real estate on the screen makes the chaos feel a little less manageable. If you had to choose between the two, I’d go the iPod/iPhone version as it feels slightly more playable.