BIT.TRIP as a series has had a rather great track record. Four games before FATE and it was still going strong, with a slow progression towards a soundtrack resembling less and less of an 8-bit chip-tune homage and more its own thing. The series has gotten a slow and steady notoriety behind it and for good reason, they’re incredibly addicting games with different core mechanics behind each one, keeping the games glued together with the subtle story-line of Commander Video, our mascot. The last game in the series, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, had a less somber look and feel aesthetically, as BIT. TRIP VOID ended with the Commander figuring out what he needed, how make friends. At this point… the world was his oyster. However it also comes to show Commander Video (through the series’ use of imagery for story-telling) that love and compassion will only show Commander Video so much in terms of results, which brings us to this release, BIT.TRIP FATE.
Mechanically BIT.TRIP FATE is an on-rails shooter… but like, really. He’s on a rail and shoots. So that might go down as the most definitive use of the words on-rails shooter. To move Commander, the direction keys will do you fine and to shoot, the mouse is your aim and your ammo. It really is some of the most simplistic gameplay you could possibly wish for and because of it, BIT.TRIP FATE feels pretty flawless in execution. To put a genre on it, BIT.TRIP FATE feels like a bullet-hell scrolling-shoot ’em up with more of a restriction thanks to the on-rail mechanic and although this does make it so the developers could engulf you in the scenario exactly the way they want, it kind of limits what you can do and as such, ends up being a little bit of a bummer. The aim is as tight as anything and movement is flowing and solid. It may take you a few rounds to figure out just how to get ahead of the game, but once you have the hang of it there isn’t really anything new to learn throughout. That isn’t to diminish what is a fantastic set-up, however. The game actually lends itself to some real replayability purely by virtue of the fact that it’s really hard… but, really, this game isn’t to be messed with. If you are doing one of these two things, 1: Playing for the first time, or 2: Taking the game for an all day sucker, you are going to die… a lot.
Graphically, BIT.TRIP FATE follows the style of the previous games to a T. 8-bit, blocky but in a charming, in your face nostalgia kind of way. Actually, the game stylistically comes off a lot more like the older games in the series and less like the previous BIT.TRIP RUNNER. It reminds me a lot of the first three in the series, the dark atmosphere, less-saturated color pallet and overall mood culminates in an overall familiarization. There hasn’t been an update in imagery but obviously this was intentional. One great note about BIT.TRIP FATE is that because of the darker color scheme and smart level-design, the levels a lot of the time can come off as claustrophobic in atmosphere despite the whole… you know, space thing. It’s a nice touch that is appreciated.
The music in BIT.TRIP FATE is part old, part new and the new is kind of exciting. It’s the same chip-tune vibe you know but from a thrillingly new, exciting perspective. The genre switches between standard chip-tune and dubstep and the best of it is when it melds the two seamlessly. Melodically it represents the game as bleak and sinister, certainly clashing with the sentimentality of the last Bit.Trip game. It paints Commander Video’s outlook as progressively angry and frustrated, more and more does it wear on him that love isn’t going to conquer his enemies hatred. It’s an incredibly fitting suitor for the game and actually ends up being the highlight of the game. The soundtrack is absolutely advised, anyone who’s a fan of a piece of music being able to take you places emotionally, perhaps changing your mood on a whim, this soundtrack is your new best friend.
Although it is put on the back-burner, I really don’t think it should be underestimated just how well Commander Video’s story is displayed throughout these games, especially here. The short but sweet clips displayed in-between levels are always charming and get the point across without outstaying the welcome or making it too obvious for the observer. If a person played through these games with absolutely no interest in anything other than the gameplay, they would still have a fantastic time although perhaps miss a vital part of what makes these games so endearing. No spoilers here, but the ending plays to the feel of the whole game and makes for the best ending the series has to offer so far.
BIT.TRIP FATE is an incredibly addicting game, but crafted to be… well, pretty difficult. The levels will take some getting used to and you will have to repeat levels to understand them, plus the enemies within. If you’re not a fan of repeating the same levels to understand and beat them, this may not be for you and for some, could certainly be thought of as a detriment to the game. The story is fantastically implemented, the graphics are charming and reaching for the past in the right way, sonically this game triumphs over a majority of games you can pit against it, triple-A or indie, this game has a lot of what you want in a game. It’s strange just how little Bit.Trip does new, yet its mechanics are changed in every game completely, it really is a testament to just how cohesive the series feels. BIT.TRIP FATE is a game I’m glad to have had the opportunity to play and cannot wait for any Bit.Trip successors that Gaijin Games see’s fit to release.