Bit.Trip Beat: Trip To The Beat
Game: BIT.TRIP BEAT. Publisher: Namco. Price at review: £1.19. Buy the game
I’d like to kill whoever designed the iPhone 4′s screen. Really I would. “It’s oleophobic!”, they bragged, somehow having missed the point that IT’S BLOODY MEANT TO HAVE THINGS SLIDE ACROSS IT, YOU MORONS. The result is something that collects fewer fingerprint smudges and therefore looks prettier on your coffee table, but is also much more unpleasantly “rubbery” when you’re trying to zip your finger across it with any speed or precision. I know which of those things is more important to me.
But anyway. Slide-resistant screen notwithstanding, (“Bit Trip Beat” – Ed) is one of the loveliest things to yet appear in the App Store, so grease your finger up with Vaseline if necessary and get ready to fall for it.
First seen on Nintendo’s cash-stealing theft-portal WiiWare but now available for a quarter of the price, Bit Trip Beat is a Pong derivative disguised as a rhythm-action game. “Avoid missing ball for high score“ would serve perfectly adequately both as instruction manual and strategy guide, because that’s literally all you have to do.
Pixels shoot out from the right edge of the screen and you have to stop them flying off the left edge by getting your bat in the way (with every hit contributing a note to the old-skool chip tunes). Stop lots in succession and you boost your score multiplier, miss too many and you get dumped in “Nether”, a black-and-white music-less world where a few more misses will end your game.
The beauty of Bit Trip Beat arises from what happens in between those two edges. The pixels swoop, ricochet and zigzag across the void, sometimes stopping dead before recommencing their flight, sometimes bouncing back to hit your bat several times, sometimes coming at you in spinning aerobatic formations, and sometimes doing things that defy description. You never know quite what’s coming next, whether it’s a simple straight-line sequence or a maelstrom of swerving sine waves interspersed with stacked-up diagonal lurkers.
(Don’t worry – these terms will make perfect sense if you play the game.)
The effect is as spellbinding as it is challenging, and the kick you get out of successfully defending your combo counter against a long and varied attack, or digging yourself out of Nether and back into the colourful musical normal world with a skilled performance under pressure, is the heartbeat of videogaming.
There isn’t really a lot else to say. The iOS version has two major advances over the WiiWare game – you can play with touch controls as well as tilt ones (the game uses the gyroscope if available, so you can still steer if you’re lying flat on your back), and there are online leaderboards via Game (“Centre” – Ed), which apparently the Wii version lacked, because Nintendo hate you.
If there’s a criticism of Bit Trip Beat it would be that it’s a bit slight. You get just three levels, although they’re pretty long – each one is 10 minutes plus, which in iPod terms is quite a high-demand commitment for a minimum play session. But it does mean that there’s a LOT of scope for high-score improvement, because it’ll be a long, long time before you can manage a perfect run on any of the stages, even the relatively gentle first one. If you ever do, there are three more iOS-exclusive stages available via in-app purchase at a rather stiff £1.19 ($1.99) each.
Bit Trip Beat is a beautiful game, significantly improved over its Wii incarnation and perfectly suited to the iConsoles. The ultra-retro styling might not be for everybody, but anyone with a videogamer’s soul will be entranced.