Sometimes less is more. Sometimes it’s the simple games that have the biggest impact on us, or impress us the most. That said, there aren’t a lot of games nowadays that follows that formula. Complexity has become a major aspect of gaming in general and anything that doesn’t have complexity to it is often ignored. A game on the other side of the spectrum, a game that attempts to play it simple and yet provide a fun experience, is none other than Gaijin’s Runner 2.
I have to admit that before I was advised to play it, I had no idea what Bit.Trip.Runner was. I ended up trying it, buying it and then spending hours playing it on my 3DS. I had all these detailed, long, complex games, but I found myself constantly playing an 8-bit forced time runner with a relatively simple music element to it. I couldn’t stop playing it. I would fail certain levels as much as 20 times in a few minutes and just go back for more. It’s the kind of thing that makes you realize it’s a great game. Runner 2 was then announced and I knew when I got to play it that I would get addicted, and that’s exactly what happened.
The first trailer revealing Runner 2 had a big statement to start it of, it said F*%K 8-bit. Gaijin were ditching the retro look and feel and going to a ‘3D’ version of the 2D platformer. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this, but after the trailer I had little doubt that I needed this game.And I have not been disappointed at all. Runner 2 is every bit as fun as I could ever have hoped, and it expands on the original to such a degree that I am not sure I could even go back to the original anymore (that’s a bit of a lie, I totally could).
Runner 2 has a simple formula. You play the part as COMMANDER VIDEO *said with utmost enthusiasm and a deep voice* and you have to prove you have rhythm, or rhythm will surely save the day, or something. It actually doesn’t even matter what the story is about. The cut scenes are ridiculous as they are funny but make no real sense. Yet they are still worth watching for some odd reason.
The actual gameplay is where the magic comes in. As I said, you play the part of COMMANDER VIDEO and your mission is to, well it’s effectively to get from one side of the level to the other. But there are obstacles in the way and when Commander Video gets going there ain’t nothing that’s gonna stand in his way. So the commander has to run as fast as his little legs can carry him through an obstacle-filled level. The further you get the more different types of obstacles you will have to deal with.
The progression is simple. You start off with the jump button and jump over enemies or holes in the floor or whatever else you can jump over (note: not on the enemies, this isn’t Mario). Then eventually you learn to slide, and you slide under enemies and the likes. Right, simple so far. Then you learn to kick which can only be done on specific obstacles. You have a shield to bat away incoming flying obstacles and you can also dance. Now who doesn’t want to dance? I thought so.
Anyway, when you have all the skills and obstacles are flying at you, the real trick is combining all that you know and dealing with the world and what it has to throw at you, while dancing in between, or whenever you get a chance. Warming up your fingers before playing is highly recommended.
Sound ridiculous enough yet? Well there is a point to it all. During the level you get points for avoiding obstacles and for collecting gold bars and health signs, and extra points if you manage to throw a dance in. The combination of all these things will help you get the most points and as such laugh at all your friends on the leaderboard. Oh, and you can get extra points if you collect everything in a level – finishing off with the ability to shoot Commander Video out a cannon at a giant target sign.
By now you are probably thinking that this sounds a bit trippy. Well let me allay those fears by telling you that all of the above has a music rhythm aspect to it. Every time you collect something, or jump over an obstacle it adds a beat to the music. Really, when it all comes together and your fingers are working overtime it’s just a beautiful and fun filled experience that has you dying for more and more. Each world has its main levels and finishes with a boss level which adds even more variety as you have to move to the rhythm while also taking out the enemy. It’s a great inclusion that didn’t exist in the previous game. It’s what you call ‘progression’ in game development, something missing from most sequels these days.
Added to everything, there are plenty of extras. Never mind the leaderboards where you can better scores. There are three different difficulty levels each changing the level up quite drastically. Scattered around various levels are treasure chests with new characters and outfits. You can find old cartridges which transport you to a retro level to attempt. Lastly, there are alternate routes and keys to find to unlock even more extras.
Runner 2 is a gem of a game that not nearly enough people try. The levels are wonderfully designed with the music to compliment it. It may not be the longest in terms of actual levels but together with all the extras and the difficulty levels, and of course friends pushing your scores, it really does have it all.
Runner 2 might appear to follow that less is more idea, but if you unravel all it has to offer it ends up being some of the best money you could ever spend. No matter what you think your favourite kind of game is, you should give Runner 2 a try. It’s one of the most addictive games you’ll ever play.