The Greatest Game Ever...of the week: Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Endless runners are notorious for their accessibility and mobile appeal. These games cater toward people looking for something to play on the go, as well as high score chasers who love to constantly challenge themselves to one more run. Over the years the running man genre has evolved by adding objectives and end goals. In the case of titles like Jetpack Joyride, which remain endless in their design, you're rewarded for completing specific tasks. Others, however, don't challenge you to run for as long as possible and feel more streamlined, much like Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
Launching in February 2013, Runner2 from Choice Provisions (then known as Gaijin Games) took the runner formula and created one of the most impressive entries in the genre, if not the most impressive. Let's take a look at this game, which just so happens to be the greatest game ever...of the week.
The next generation of Bit.Trip
Choice Provisions' Bit.Trip series gained notoriety on Nintendo's WiiWare service and immediately took off. Several installments later, the studio decided to revisit arguably its most popular title, Bit.Trip Runner. Runner2 is very much in line with what that previous game offered, but it feels like an authentic full-fledged sequel, evolving what needs to evolve while remaining true to the format.
The game just seems like a big deal the moment you load it up. There's something really special about hearing the iconic voice of Mario proudly proclaim, “I'm Charles Martinet, and now it's time for Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien!” That opening phrase cues some wonderful theme music, and you're then invited to dive right into the adventure alongside series protagonist CommanderVideo.
One of the biggest departures from past Bit.Trip games (especially from the first Bit.Trip Runner) is in the graphics of Runner2. Whereas the first game offered cheery pixelated visuals, the sequel mixes classic and contemporary styles. Set on a 2.5D plane, the game's characters, environments, and backgrounds are all rendered in 3D. There's a lot of life seen throughout — mountains sport massive grins, clouds move across the sky, floating islands hover up and down ever so subtly, and windmills function realistically. There's a cartoonish vibe to the whole thing, which was intentional on the part of the dev team.
While Runner2 looks drastically different from its Bit.Trip brethren, it still retains that innate charm that made those games so spectacular to behold and play. It's also a touch more accessible than previous installments due to its objective-based design which tasks you with going from point A to point B, much like a classic platformer.
Don't stop the beat
Unlike a retro platformer, though, Runner2 doesn't give you complete control over CommanderVideo (or his unlockable comrades). Player characters auto-run from left to right, and it's your job to jump, duck, kick, and block depending on the obstacles that appear before you. True to its name, this is a rhythm-based action game that relies heavily on music and sound, and it absolutely thrives in the rhythm department.
An incredible soundtrack plays on in the background, and certain pick-ups add dynamic shifts to the general beat so that by the end of the stage you're listening to a beautifully composed theme. Runner2 is designed so that the sound is enhanced every time you collect gold bars, jump over baddies, or knock down walls. You're never just playing along to the beat but rather helping to create it.
You can switch between three different difficulty settings on the fly, with each option offering a varied experience. Play on the lowest setting, for example, and you'll have to deal with minimal enemies, spikes, and other dangers. This is a great way to get accustomed to how Runner2 plays, but it's by no means the ideal way to play. On the other hand, switching to the highest difficulty throws more obstacles and interactivity into the levels, greatly invigorating the rhythm gameplay and giving you the ultimate experience in regards to both the onscreen action and the sound design.
The Super Mario Bros. 3 of runner games
I reviewed Runner2 when it launched on the Wii U two years ago, and I drew parallels between that game and Super Mario Bros. 3. Looking back, I still feel the same exact way — for Choice Provisions and Bit.Trip, this is without a doubt the kind of giant leap that Nintendo made with the Mario series between the first and third Super Mario Bros. titles. It's also a huge step forward for runner games in general because it sets a new standard, and it sets it quite high (I've yet to find a better runner game).
Runner2 graciously invites you into its colorful, musical world with open arms. It's not a conniving, near-impossible game, but it's also not a cakewalk. It's filled with plenty of things to do and secret characters to unlock across its 100 levels, giving you seemingly endless reasons to return. It looks and sounds utterly magnificent, and it's drenched in charm and personality.
Whether you're a strict endless runner player, a classic platformer fan, or someone who just enjoys good fun, Runner2 is easily one of the greatest downloadable titles to ever come along.