Gaijin Games compromises my ability to deliver a concise game description with Bit.Trip Fate, a rhythm-based on-rails twin stick bullet hell shooter. I guess that wasn't too bad.
Bit.Trip Fate is the fifth installment of Gaijin and Aksys' Bit.Trip series, which combines '80s graphics with modern game design to create unique experiences. In the case of Fate, series icon Commander Video travels along a twisting rail through strange alien worlds, blasting enemies and avoiding hails of bullets in order to defeat six level bosses and save the day. Along the way he collects power-ups, intensifying the music and his firepower, while friends like Super Meat Boy provide additional weapons and armor to aid in his quest.
The ideal Bit.Trip Fate player has an ear for rhythm, snake-like reflexes, the patience of a saint, and the ability to see beyond the graphics to the gameplay underneath.
Some consider the Bit.Trip series to be not only a defining series for Nintendo's WiiWare service, but a justification for the service's very existence. It's the poster franchise for the gameplay over graphics movement, delivering fresh and compelling experiences without the use of flashy imagery.
So Bit.Trip Fate is an on-rails shooter? To a certain extent, yes. Commander Video follows a set path that winds its way from left to right. Unlike traditional on-rails shooters, however, the character can be moved back and forth along that path at will while the level slowly scrolls from right to left. Dips and hills in the line allow him to position himself vertically to avoid bullets and fire on enemies. There's a strategy to placing yourself in the right place at the right time. The analog stick on the Wii nunchuck controls movement along the path, while the Wii remote is used to fire your weapon in all directions around the screen. You can also use the Wii Classic Controller, but oddly enough it's not quite as responsive as the Wii remote and nunchuck combo.
Relax! Only that cross in the center of Commander Video can be hit by bullets.
Hails of bullets? So it's a difficult game? Well any bullet hell shooter is hard until you memorize the enemy patterns, and then it just becomes a matter of going through the correct motions. Bit.Trip Fate is actually more frustrating than difficult. Like its predecessor, Bit.Trip Runner, dying sets you back to the beginning of the stage. Unlike Runner, Fate's six levels are long, winding, and slow. Dying in a boss fight after spending five or six minutes getting to the end of a level and having to restart back at the beginning quickly loses its charm.
How does music figure into the action? The chiptune music in Bit.Trip Fate is constructed in such a way that every enemy explosion feels like it's part of the game's soundtrack. the music and gameplay aren't as closely intertwined as in some of the previous games in the series, but the effect is quite nice nonetheless.
And there's multiplayer? I suppose you could consider one player holding the nunchuck to move and the other using the Wii remote to shoot cooperative multiplayer, but then suddenly half of the Wii library features co-op multiplayer. Shooting your weapon slows your movement, so the game is really best played with one player behind the wheel. It could be fun with the right partner. I did not have the right partner.
Commander Video burst into full form in May's Bit.Trip Runner, filled with adolescent energy and enthusiasm, taking on challenges head-on without much thought. Bit.Trip Fate presents a more mature and thoughtful Commander Video, and while he's lost some of his teenage charm, this slower, more methodical hero makes up for it with the thoughtful complexity that comes with age.
Bit.Trip Fate was developed by Gaijin Games and published by Aksys Games for WiiWare, released on October 25. Retails for 800 Wii Points ($8.00). A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through all six levels to completion. Played through level one twice, level two three times, and lost count for levels three through six.