The Bit.Trip series has had a long history. First came Bit.Trip Beat in 2009 which was rhythm based equivalent of the video game Pong, then came a variety of other Bit.Trip games until we were introduced to Bit.Trip Runner. Bit.Trip Runner eventually saw a sequel named Runner2 and now Runner3, a title currently exclusive to the Nintendo Switch and PC.
The story of Runner3 feels almost non-existent and tacked onto the game. Like Runner2, I found the story to be minimal, silly and mostly forgettable. It sees once again CommanderVideo and CommandergirlVideo fight against Timbletot, the game’s main enemy. Though not much fighting actually happens, with the exemption of boss battles.
Runner3 feels similar in practically every aspect to Runner2, it is a music platforming game where the player runs automatically along a path, performing inputs along with the music e.g. kick barricades or launch off springs. Gameplay for the most part is responsive, though I noticed on some occasions that for example, when kicking blockades there was no feedback. On these occasions I couldn’t tell if the input had registered, so I just had to assume that they did. Gameplay was addicting as ever, with a ‘just one more level’ feel to it.
The levels themselves tend to be varied in terms of their design, however I felt on numerous occasions that levels felt very similar not just to previous levels, but to those found in Runner2. Levels are selected on a world select, and I personally liked the overall structure. In relation to these levels, Runner3 is very difficult, which led to some very frustrating moments. Thankfully like Runner2, a checkpoint in each level is apparent and the fact that you don’t get penalised for dying helped to reduce the frustration. Moreover, I often found myself dying to obstacles that I found difficult to see, when trying levels for the first time.
A new aspect to Runner3 is the use of vehicles, in some levels you will be required to jump into a vehicle and drive them for a brief amount of time. These were a nice inclusion although they did not add much to the overall variation. Furthermore, controls in vehicles, most noticeably the plane were quite fiddly. This made it frustrating to obtaining some collectibles in each level, because the hit boxes for the collectibles were too small.
Overall, although new features were incorporated into the game, they were not enough to make the gameplay stand out compared to Runner2. In addition, exclusive features for the Switch version including HD Rumble are non-apparent. The Joy-Con would viscously rumble when I died but that was mostly it. The HD rumble function was not utilised in any interesting ways like other Switch games that I have played.
In terms of its visual design, Runner3 has some wacky, well-designed characters and environments that help spring the game to life. Ranging from crazy looking fish that jump over you as you progress, to mountainous looking objects with faces on them. I personally disliked some of these non-aesthetically pleasing looking character designs. However, I can understand the direction Choice Provisions were going for. I also found that in comparison to Runner2, that some environments were often bland and uninspired. Additionally, the result of new 3d angles, although being a nice effect, revealed some emptiness to the worlds.
In relation to performance, Runner3 runs very well on Switch, and really suits the handheld format well. Some instances the game appeared to drop frames, but it was hardly noticeable. When docked, however, graphics did look rough. Text lacked sharpness, graphics lacked anti–aliasing and the big screen further revealed the environment’s emptiness.
The Bit.Trip series is known for its musically orientated gameplay and the music and sounds all play their part to enhance gameplay. The music and sound are highly varied, some was retro styled, others being more goofy. The music itself was decent, if somewhat forgettable. I did find that some sounds in certain music to be annoying. Just like Runner2, I liked that collectibles, springs etc. had sound effects which complimented the level’s music. This was another issue I found however, in which the music and sounds were also very similar to Runner2.
Voice acting was once again done by Charles Martinet, the voice of Super Mario. Charles Martinet is the game’s narrator and reads out names of levels and presents a randomly humoured advert which appears at the start of the game, like Runner2. All these similarities contributed to an overall package that would be difficult to differentiate from Runner2 at a glance.
Runner3 has replay value in spades, and you will never really feel like you have completed the game 100%, because there is always something to do. This game will keep those completionists that like hard platformers busy for hours upon hours. Each level has multiple routes, allowing for you to obtain different collectibles than the standard that is usually used to unlock bonus levels. These different collectibles can be used to purchase costumes, unlock characters etc. I liked the ability to add hats to the character or change the trial pattern etc. because it added a bit of personalisation. In relation to the different routes, each one will be more difficult than the standard route offered in the levels. This is also something I really liked about Runner2, it means that each level needs to be played multiple times, in order to fully experience everything. Additionally, you could be spending a lot of time attempting to clear the more difficult levels, including those bonus levels which are even harder.
The Bit.Trip series has had a long run, and with the third entry in the Runner3 series things are starting to look and feel the same. The pros and the cons of Runner2 are still here, from its rewarding gameplay to its frustratingly difficult moments. Whilst more of the same thing can be a good thing, unfortunately this was not entirely the case for Runner3. The additional features I felt were not enough and as a result the game was so similar to the point that I thought I was playing an expansion.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.