"I AM ONLY A MAN."
I command destiny.
Technology is fleeting.
With rhythm comes responsibility.
I command rhythm.
By being, we are charged to command.
The subordinate is superior.
We are all commanders.
We are all on a BIT.TRIP
"It's a basic story. Life and death. It's the story of a human's life. You are nothing—or are you? And then you are, and then what do you do with your life? And then it ends. No one really knows before you're born and then you die. People have beliefs but nobody really knows."
All right, let's put this as straight as possible: you are playing Atari 2600
games while high on acid
. While listening to NES
music. Nothing could be more awesome.BIT.TRIP
is a series of rhythm games
, originally for WiiWare
, developed by Gaijin Games (now known as Choice Provisions). The specific games are:
- BIT.TRIP BEAT, is like a game of single-player Pong where you must defend the left side of the screen from an onslaught of bouncing squares (called "beats") using only a tiny paddle. Once you start to get the hang of things, the beats start moving faster, circling around in unpredictable patterns, and using every part of the game experience to issue a challenge of both real and Fake Difficulty, setting the tone for the series. Also available on Steam and iOS.
- BIT.TRIP CORE, was released four months after the first. It changes the control scheme around a little bit, ditching the Pong paddle and replacing it with a red D-pad in the center of the screen that shoots lasers at the passing beats. The third game available on Steam.
- BIT.TRIP VOID, puts you in control of a black hole which can move around to suck up black beats and dodge white beats. It was released November 2009, making it the third BIT.TRIP game to be announced and released within the course of a year, and the mid point of the six game series as a whole.
- BIT.TRIP RUNNER, breaks many established attributes of the series, and begins Gaijin's promise to turn down the Mind Screw factor and begin to reveal the truth behind the plot. Released in June 2010, it is a platformer among the lines of Vib-Ribbon and Canabalt.note The second game available on Steam. Now has a direct sequel.
- BIT.TRIP FATE was released on October 25, 2010. It is a literal Rail Shooter, with the Five-Man Band from the last game serving as powerups. It represented a merging of the literal and figurative aspects of the series, and is notably darker in theme than the others.
- The sixth and final game, BIT.TRIP FLUX, was released February 28, 2011. In essence it is a horizontal reversal of the first game, but with elements taken from each of the other games in the series.
- A Spin-Off title, BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend Of Rhythm Alien (ported to iOS as BIT.TRIP RUN!), was released early in 2013 and incorporates a wildly different somewhat cartoony art style.
- Runner2, in turn, got a promotional web-based Spin-Off titled CommanderVideo, a Canabalt-style endless running game using the Retraux graphics from Runner2's Retro Challenges. However, the game has apparently been taken down, as its web address now redirects to the main BIT.TRIP website.
A pair of Compilation Rereleases
, titled BIT.TRIP SAGA
and BIT.TRIP COMPLETE
, are available for the Nintendo 3DS
respectively. The 3DS version is available as a digital download on the Nintendo eShop as well as a retail product, and features 3D, control changes to accomodate the lack of a Wiimote and of course, portability, while the Wii version features 3 difficulty levels, a soundtrack CD *
, online leaderboards, and other extras for fans who have followed the series the whole way through.
The initial hype for these games came from an online Viral Marketing
campaign, encouraging users to try and decode hidden messages from a mysterious "CommanderVideo" entity. CommanderVideo is portrayed in the game's story cutscenes as a box/astronaut/television-like creature, and the story follows his adventures through space as he matures, assembles a Five-Man Band
, and beats up a gear robot to... uh... well, nobody's really too sure
. The series does have a plot, although a good deal of it is found All There in the Manual
includes as in-game liner notes). It's mostly symbolic instead of literal in terms of storytelling, and it was only once the series was completed that people could reflect on the series as a whole for its meaning. The final game is dedicated to Carl Sagan as well, and in hindsight the series incorporates a lot of his philosophy
CommanderVideo has made appearances in several other games, including a playable appearance in Super Meat Boy.
He also has the honor of being the first representation of an indie game in the Super Smash Bros.
series, appearing as an unlockable trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The games are critically acclaimed for their nostalgic retro quality, brutal but addictive difficulty, and kickass soundtracks
that build themselves as the levels progress
Tropes that appear in the six original games:
- Ascended Glitch: In BEAT, hitting the pong ball with the corners of Player 2's paddle will cause the ball to gain way too much momentum and go haywire, making the final boss trivial to beat. When the game was patched, Gaijin specifically didn't fix the bug because it was a "cool advanced technique".
- A Winner Is You: Parodied at the end of FLUX: You are presented with a GAME OVER screen.
- Back for the Finale: FLUX has many gameplay elements from all five of the previous games:
- From BEAT: The core gameplay.
- From CORE: Some of the power-ups.
- From VOID: The inclusion of checkpoints and Beats that harm you if you try to repel them.
- From RUNNER: Multiplier based on power level.
- From FATE: Messages that fly by in the background of each stage segment.
- Bonus Stage: Collecting all pieces of gold in a stage in RUNNER will activate one at the end of said stage.
- Book Ends:
- The first and last games of the series, BEAT and FLUX respectively, have identical controls, but on opposite ends of the screen.
- The last background image seen in FLUX is the giant blue ball that represents a heartbeat at the very beginning of BEAT. The comet from said song also makes an appearance as it flies back to the blue ball.
- The last level in "FLUX", called Catharsis, uses the background from the first level of "BEAT", except the imagery is updated, has some minor changes (The Giant Ball is moved to the epilogue), and the imagery is played backwards.
- Every song in FLUX is based upon Transition, the first song in BEAT, in some way. The opening theme is based upon Growth, the third song in BEAT, as well as "Move to Intercept", the menu theme of that game (made by the same guy).
- Bullet Hell: BEAT and CORE are rare inversions where you must hit all the dots instead of dodging them. In VOID and FLUX, you have to do both. The final boss in VOID is also a textbook example of classic Bullet Hell. FATE is the straightest example, being an actual shoot 'em up, complete with tiny hitbox.
- Call Back: in the background of FLUX are the level names and other statements from previous games in the series, representing CommanderVideo reflecting on his experiences.
- Call Forward: Some of the names are those of later stages in FLUX, possibly to reinforce the non-linearity of time in the ethereal.
- Character Development: CommanderVideo throughout the series.
- Chekhov's Gunman: In RUNNER, Junior Melchkin, Radbot, and Meat Boy each appear in the background once (the former two appearing in the levels named after themselves, the latter in "Gall Blaster"). Eventually, they all show up in "The Source", assisting in CommanderVideo's Roof Hopping. CommandgirlVideo also shows up in this level, though it isn't until after the level that CommanderVideo takes notice...
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Conspicuously averted in FLUX, in which every beat is the same color, including the ones that bounce back and must be hit again an instant later.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: Played straight in BEAT and CORE, but averted in VOID (the players are identified by the number next to their Void instead). There was no multiplayer in RUNNER, but it returns later in the series.
- Continuing Is Painful: If you die in VOID, you have the choice between accepting your current score for the high score list, or losing all your points to continue.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: With four players in BEAT and VOID and two players in CORE, FATE, and FLUX. BEAT, CORE, VOID, and FLUX are all individual-style, while FATE is assistant-style. Averted in RUNNER for storyline reasons and averted completely in SAGA, likely out of space concerns.
- Cosmetic Award: The "PERFECT!" acknowledgment on the scoreboard. This does extend to real life as getting the elusive title gives you name recognition on the official site.
- FLUX somewhat as well; the final scene of the series has the Commander forgetting even himself, but then again there's that bit of "Transition" that pops up.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: In the first cutscene of FATE alone, Radbot apparently stops working altogether, and his head splits apart, revealing Mr. Robotube.
- Easter Egg:
- There's actually a Game Over in RUNNER, though it requires a completely Epic Fail on your part. It involves not jumping when you have to Goomba Stop the final boss.
- You can play random notes in all the games by pressing a button that isn't used for any purpose in that game.
- Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: VOID and FATE have harder bosses than levels.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: In RUNNER, playing on Easy removes the gold and Retro Challenges, and makes it impossible to get a Perfect.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: BIT.TRIP's rainbow has a distinctly different color arrangement.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: As you Mode Up in RUNNER, CommanderVideo will leave behind a trail of sparkles, which eventually becomes his distinctive rainbow trail.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's like an acid trip. And, somewhere, bits are involved. Made even more hilarious in FLUX, which gets binary digits involved.
- Fade to White: At the end of FLUX. You keep playing but ultimately have to stop because you can't see (the beats and panel are both white in this game). And then you hear Transition start.
- Final Exam Boss: CORE's final boss is essentially a test of how well you remembered specific patterns in all of the levels.
- Flash of Pain: The enemies in FATE flash red when hit.
- Foreshadowing: The explanatory letters in COMPLETE reveal that the ghostly figures in the first level of BEAT are dead members of CommanderVideo's species, returning to where they came from. This is exactly what he does in FLUX.
- Goomba Stomp: How CommanderVideo defeats the final boss in RUNNER.
- Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: BEAT, RUNNER and FLUX have easier bosses than levels; RUNNER even makes it more or less impossible to not get a perfect on them.
- Hard Mode Perks: In FLUX, playing on Hard increases the amount of Beats missed required to drop a level.
- 100% Completion:
- It's a little known fact that hitting all the beats in a single song will get you acknowledgment at the score screen. Though, it's no surprise not many people have seen it.
- COMPLETE has a hundred and twenty Challenges (twenty in each game) to play through. It also has plenty of unlockables... of which the Songs require you to get Perfects.
- Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: The music in each game changes slightly depending on combo, in addition to the names of the extra modes, which banana slamma in sequence based on some level of combo. NETHER is the lowest, HYPER is normal, then MEGA, SUPER, ULTRA, EXTRA, GIGA, and META, with SUPER onwards being added in each subsequent game.
- Interface Screw:
- The trippy background images are enough to distract you from the field of play. This is completely intentional.
- In the "Challenge" portions of BEAT, CORE, VOID, and FLUX, your paddle is shrunk down to half-size, your Control Stick is reversed, or you have to rotate the actual controller 90 degrees around the Control Pad to match what's onscreen.
- Karakasa: Kasa-obake appear in the Supernature. They even have a level named after them.
- Large Ham: CommanderVideo himself. Listen closely in RUNNER and FATE. CommanderVideo announces the mode he transitions to.
NETHER. HYPER. MEGA! SUPER! ULTRA! EXTRA!! GIGA!!!
- Leit Motif:
- An identical-sounding heartbeat-like bass track is present in many of the series' songs, including Transition, Control, Id, and nearly everything in RUNNER.
- CommanderVideo has a theme song that plays in the first world of RUNNER, the end of FATE and the final level of FLUX. The distinctive first four notes play in varying orders in the first level of BEAT and in the first cutscene of FLUX. All of FLUX's level songs are based around BEAT's first level's music. On FLUX's full soundtrack, the notes play in the correct order one last time at the very, very end.
- Lying Creator: In regards to RUNNER, the developers have said, "We don't have a Mackle Fussybuck, but we do have: Jabol Smabbler, Junior Melchkin, Flyss Whizzle, Mingrawn Timbletot, Leftwise Gestersmek (and a Rightwise one to boot), Hairy Knorkwhisp, and our favorite... The Non Trotski. Basically, we're makin' this shit up." The thing is, they're all names of various stages in the game.
- Milestone Celebration: The launch of the series website a year after the first game was released.
- Mind Screw: The whole freaking thing. The first game's story is about CommanderVideo flying through space, exploring the inside of a planet, and then... uh... building a brain out of voxels. The second game is about CommanderVideo meeting other people, exploring a city with them, and then acquiring independence from them. The third game had CommanderVideo growing in size and harassing the populace until they combine themselves into an even bigger giant, at which point the Commander is intimidated down to size and decides to make amends with the others. What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine. Fortunately, starting with BIT.TRIP RUNNER, the series will stop messing with our minds and show us what's really going on. At least until FLUX, where the game returns to oblique symbolic metaphors, once again leaving everyone clueless.
- Mind Screwdriver:
- The readme files for the soundtracks have some interesting hints: that BEAT is about CommanderVideo's "aural journey from the ethereal to the corporeal", that CORE is about his "aural soul quest as he transitions into the land of the tactile", that VOID is about his "aural soul quest as he learns what it means to interact with others", and that RUNNER is about him "tak[ing] the world by storm." Indeed, if the story is considered to be a chronicle of a man's existence, a lot of things suddenly start to make sense.
- Alex Neuse, the game's creator, has confirmed that Commander Video's story is about the development of human life.
- Minecart Madness: RUNNER and Runner2 have continuous moving and obstacles to avoid and things to collect, despite not involving mines or carts.
- Musical Gameplay:
- Hitting the Beats (or doing successful actions in RUNNER or downing enemies in FATE) makes beeping noises that contributes to the music.
- In BEAT and FLUX, stereo is utilized by playing one blip on your paddle's side when it hits, then another on the other side when it goes off-screen.
- Musical Nod: "Transition" from BEAT briefly plays during the opening to RUNNER's "Triumph" stage. A bit from the "Concept" cutscene from BEAT also plays in the cutscene after "Triumph".
- Nintendo Hard:
- There's a very good reason why they go through the trouble of including everyone who's ever gotten a "PERFECT!" on a stage on their website.
- Of all of the games, FATE and CORE are quite a bit harder than the rest.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder:
- Subverted in RUNNER, where CommanderVideo can only take one hit, but is merely sent to the beginning of the stage.
- Unless you miss the final spring in the last level, after which you get to watch the Commander twitch on the ground until the Game Over screen pops up.
- Pixel Hunt:
- Happens often with Beats due to the Interface Screw. And you only have about half a second to catch sight of that little thing anyways.
- Possibly made worse in FLUX since every single beat is the same color—white. (However, given that the background gets increasingly bright and colorful with each Mode, this can become a bit of a mercy.) They do have a faint colored glow around each one, but good luck seeing which one's which.
- Playing Tennis with the Boss:
- The final boss of FLUX has you playing tennis with a full-screen enemy paddle... or, arguably, fighting yourself as the final boss.
- Power of Love: The Commander and his team believe this fighting Mingrawn Timbletot. During FATE, the Commander abandons his ideals and kills both himself and Mingrawn Timbletot in a rage.
- Product Placement:
- NULLSLEEP's logo appears as part of Super-Ego's beat pattern in VOID, accompanied by the word NULLSLEEP passing by in the background.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- The end of VOID has CommanderVideo exclaiming, "I! Am! READY!"
- Also, Mingrawn Timbletot caps off RUNNER by darkly declaring, "You... are... not... a... man!"
- Rail Shooter: Literally in FATE — CommanderVideo is on a rail, and you control both him and a crosshair.
- Ray Gun: Most prominently in FATE, coming in many forms depending on what wingmate powerup you have and your Mode; (though not with sound effects or (except in a few cases) traditional "laser weapon" looks) the enemies use this as well. Gratuitously.
- Recurring Boss: Mingrawn Timbletot in RUNNER and FATE. The Commander kills him in a Suicide Attack.
- Rhythm Game: The games' genre is filed under "Retro Rhythm Action".
- Robot Buddy: Radbot and Mr. Robotube both.
- Roof Hopping: Present in RUNNER. According to this review, this was going to be the entirety of "Triumph", but the guys at Gaijin discovered Canabalt and relocated most of the action to the streets of the capital, only hitting the roofs at the very last level.
- Rule of Three: There are three songs in each game: BEAT had "Transition", "Descent", and "Growth"; CORE had "Discovery", "Exploration", and "Control"; VOID had "Id", "Ego", and "Super-Ego"; RUNNER had "Impetus", "Tenacity", and "Triumph"; FATE has "Patience", "Frustration", and "Anger"; and FLUX had "Epiphany", "Perception" and "Catharsis".
- Running Gag: "I am only a man!" seems to be this:
- Seen in Triumph are posters with cats that read "I am only a cat." It's actually available as fan-made merchandise.
- From the PotatoFoolsDay level "<test>":
- "I Am Only a Man" is a title of one of the songs from Runner2.
- Scare Chord: While you are playing the first two levels in FATE, a startlingly loud sound is heard accompanied by either a bleak message like "NO FUTURE" or "NO MEANING", or the level's boss, and the song itself moves onto its next part. The same thing happens in the other four levels, only the sound isn't abruptly loud.
- Schizophrenic Difficulty: Granted you play multiple times, some parts will become simple, while others will screw you up every damn time. For specific examples of levels, see the Breather Level and That One Level examples.
- Scoring Points: One of the taglines for BEAT was "Points matter again". (Though, for rhythm games, didn't they always?)
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Thoroughly averted. They're all hard.
- Sequel Escalation: Each game so far adds a new Mode to Mode Up into. Nether, Hyper, and Mega Modes were the first ones featured in BEAT, then CORE added Super Mode, followed by Ultra Mode in VOID, Extra Mode in RUNNER, Giga Mode in FATE, and finally Meta Mode in FLUX. Yet another instance of the games' Idiosyncratic Combo Levels.
- Sequel Hook:
- The first two games had these as Meaningful Background Events, as a Core and a Void both popped up towards the end of the final levels in BEAT and CORE, respectively. The third game had CommanderVideo running increasingly fast in The Stinger of VOID to tie into RUNNER. As well as the subsequent "I..am... READY!!" following said running.
- The floating bricks and the flapping birds/bats in the background near the end of VOID also hold significance to both RUNNER and FATE. (They're similar to the flies around the garbage seen in Triumph for RUNNER.)
- The fourth game had the Five-Man Band shown in The Stinger confronting an angry Mingrawn Timbletot, who flies away screaming "YOU ARE NOT A MAN!"
- And the fifth game has CommanderVideo becoming a spirit and rising up offscreen, ready to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and begin The Homeward Journey. No dialogue here, unlike the others.
- The sixth game has a sequence called "Home" played after completing Catharsis, where you are able to, interspersedly, hit the same sequence of Beats from the very beginning of Transition from BEAT, in the same order. Seeing as the game's story goes in a circle, this could count as a Sequel Hook of sorts.
- RUNNER 2 sets up FATE, with Commander Video becoming increasingly angered at Mingrawn Timbletot, and having his visor turn red after escaping the alternate universe he's been trapped in for fifteen months (although it appeared that he was only gone for a split second to everyone else.)
- Sheathe Your Sword: In an incredibly meta example, FLUX literally makes the player do this at the end.
- Shout-Out: The Arecibo message makes an appearance in the first level in BEAT (but with CommanderVideo replacing the human figure). It also makes a brief appearance in the final level of FLUX.
- Some Dexterity Required: While the controls are simple enough, the things the game makes you do with them can only be described as combos from hell. Add to that the fact that BEAT and FLUX use non-optional motion controls- the muscle memory has to be all in your wrists.
- Special Guest: Each game has a chiptune artist that provides the menu and credits songs. Both BEAT and FLUX have Bit Shifter (he only made the menu music for the latter, however, as it has Silent Credits instead), CORE has Bubblyfish, VOID has Nullsleep, RUNNER has Anamanaguchi, and FATE has Minusbaby.
- Spinoff: BIT.TONIK, a collaboration between Gaijin Games and Robotube Games, made in a single day during Blip Fest 2009 in what was called the "BATTLE OF THE BRANDS◊". The gameplay is essentially a crossover of BIT.TRIP BEAT and Bloktonik. The Obvious Beta version available is what they managed to get done in a single day.
- Springs Springs Everywhere: In RUNNER.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: The playing field is simple 2D, the backgrounds are all 3D environments. (Except for VOID, but its cutscenes still feature them.) Averted in RUNNER's Retro Stages, which are solely 2D.
- Theme Naming: Every game name except RUNNER and COMPLETE is only 4 characters long. In addition, most of them are pretty descriptive of gameplay: RUNNER is about... running, VOID has you controlling a movable black hole, and so on.
- Tonight Someone Dies: FATE seems to have this going on — even the WiiWare icon for the game◊ has Black Blood dripping from it. And for even more credence, RUNNER's stinger had the Big Bad wishing death upon CommanderVideo. And the Commander does die at the end of the game in a Suicide Attack.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: BEAT has you playing a game of Break Out for one boss and an authentic game of Pong for another, at which points the rhythm aspect of the game would be completely set aside. Though if you listen closely, the bouncing of the ball from the walls and paddles does kinda follow the rhythm.
- Variable Mix:
- The music gets a techno beat if you're in "Mega" mode (and above). If you go down to "Nether" mode, the music is turned off completely.
- In games after BEAT, "Nether" has a metronome to help you out.
- In FLUX, the music doesn't change, but instead the instrument used when Beats hit the paddle and leave the screen change - all the way up to a violin in Meta mode.
- Viral Marketing: Used for BEAT and VOID. As Alex Neuse noted in this interview:
There is a lot of content in the first viral campaign that won't make sense until sometime well into the future. Everything in that video has meaning in CommanderVideo's world.
Tropes that appear in the spinoff:
- Brick Joke: A video by Gaijin after the release of RUNNER was a PSA about the spelling of the series, as well as people calling CommanderVideo "CaptainVideo" instead. Come Runner2, and CaptainVideo is an actual playable runner.
- The Cameo: Slender Man appears in the background of one level.
- Disco Dan: Whetfahrt Cheesebörger, unlockable in the Supernature. The end of the disco era forced Cheesebörger to serve as a mascot for Burger Mouth.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing more than 50 levels on Easy no longer counts for any rewards. However, aside from that, it's possible to get a Perfect+ and retro cartridges and progress in the game on Easy.
- Foreshadowing: Commander Video's eyes briefly glow red in the ending, the first hint at his FATE.
- Gag Penis: Reverse Merman has an impressive set of testicles. One can say that they're fish balls.
- Green Aesop: A mild one: As the player progresses through the Supernature, there are fewer and fewer standing trees, and the last few levels show a lot of lumber and stumps. Apparently Mingrawn Timbletot's doing all the cutting. Defeating the boss awards the achievement "Super Tree Hugger". In the Mounting Sadds, the later levels have "Timdustries Earth Lurching: A Lot Now, Nothing for the Future!"
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: One of Commander Video's costumes in Runner 2 is called Gettin Schlörtzed, named for one of the "brought to you by" brands. There's an unlockable character from World 3 called Whetfahrt Cheesebörger, too.
- Homage: Some stages contain a retro cartridge, which takes the runner to a retro level that resembles Pitfall.
- 100% Completion: There are 100 levels in three difficulties and the possibility of a Perfect+ in each. Also, collecting all the retro game cartridges unlocks the final character. On Steam, getting every Perfect+ awards an achievement.
- Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: The music changes slightly depending on combo, in addition to the names of the extra modes, which banana slamma in sequence based on some level of combo. The player begins with HYPER and reaches MEGA, SUPER, ULTRA, and EXTRA with each core collected.
- Interface Screw: The player is used to playing by running to the right, but the final level has the character running to the left, which takes getting used to.
- Interquel: Gaijin Games have stated on Twitter that Runner2 takes place between RUNNER and FATE.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: Everything is in 3D, while the retro levels are 2D. The BIT.TRIP (the sixth world) composes everything from cubes.
- Symbol Swearing: A costume for Commander Video is called F☆☆☆ING TURKEY SUIT.
- Take That: A loading screen hint reads: Not every game has to be brown.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The final level has the player running left instead of right, something that takes getting used to when the entire game ran rightward before.
- Violation of Common Sense: Fortunately it doesn't happen too often, but reaching some of the retro cartridges involves jumping to one's death with correct timing.
- Visual Pun: One of the costumes for Reverse Merman is a fez - a reference to Phil Fish, creator of Fez. The Reverse Merman himself wears flip flops, something he does a lot, being half fish.
- Weird Moon: There's a big moon in the Supernature that has kind of a dopey/sad expression, and the one in the Mounting Sadds is about the same size, except red and angry.
- When Trees Attack: The objects in the Supernature's backdrop mostly dance. Later on, when more and more of them are shown to be turned to lumber, some of the taller ones can be seen angrily chewing on axes.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Exaggerated: we learn that CommanderVideo spent fifteen months pursuing Timbletot through the astral world; when he returns to the physical world, he's been gone for only one frame.