All good things must come to an end at some point. Sadly, the end has come for BIT.TRIP with the release of FLUX. But fear not, fellow adventurers! The conclusion to Commander Video’s trip is a fantastic romp through a battlefield of familiar mechanics and artful design. Oh, and it’s also really hard.
BIT.TRIP FLUX brings the series back to its Pong-paddling, bit-bashing, alliteration-crushing roots. Like the first game, you assume the role of a lowly paddle that moves up and down the right side of the screen. Basic gameplay involves small squares or bits flying from left to right. Your goal is to hit them all with your paddle and send them back from whence they came. A successful hit results in a charming little beat from your speakers. And as you hit bits, beats fill gaps in the game’s chiptune soundtrack.
All told, the result is a simple rhythm-based game wrapped around level design of ever-increasing difficulty. And I’ll be totally up front with you, reader. You’re probably not going to finish BIT.TRIP FLUX (or any BIT.TRIP game, for that matter), but that doesn’t mean you won’t have an awesome time trying. Only the most dedicated gamers will see a BIT.TRIP game through to the end. This is nothing new to a series that prides itself on challenging but surmountable gameplay, and since FLUX is extremely similar to the first game in the series, it begs the question… what’s new?
Gaijin Games took advantage of their entire bag of tricks when they created FLUX. Elements from previous games are everywhere, yet these similarities are absolutely foreign within the confines of FLUX, requiring the player to reevaluate what they think they know. For example, BIT.TRIP VOID was constructed around the premise of pursuit and avoidance. The player had to capture black bits and avoid white bits. Fast forward to FLUX and we see a very similar type of obstacle appear in our path. This time, however, the player can’t simply move around the screen to avoid punishment. The traps that litter the landscape play tricks on the player as they zip from left to right. Mastery will only come with practice.
Additionally, FLUX continues the tradition of challenge modes. Imagine you hit a bit and all of a sudden your paddle becomes a fraction of its former size, all while the number of bits on screen seem to double or triple. Or maybe you find yourself thrown into a double-paddle challenge where you’re now tasked with hitting multiple rows of bits at once. Such challenges are commonplace in BIT.TRIP and FLUX is no exception. You will need to pay your dues in order to reach the end.
Thankfully, the developers have shown us some mercy when it comes to practicing and getting better at FLUX. They’ve incorporated a rapid replay system that allows the player to return to the game quickly after death. Moreover, each level contains a series of checkpoints, meaning you no longer need to go back to start. Which is very nice considering that each of FLUX’s three levels take roughly 15 minutes to complete. And that’s not even counting how long it takes to defeat the boss waiting at the end of the stage.
That said, I’m not entirely a fan of the checkpoint system because I don’t think it goes far enough. Checkpoints reset if you shut the game off or even return to the main menu. That means the only way to complete a level is to do so in a single sitting. I know 15 minutes isn’t a huge deal, but when you consider that it’s going to take several tries to complete the level, even with the checkpoint system you’re talking at least 45 minutes to an hour of play. Then again, it’s my own personal scheduling conflict preventing me from playing a fantastic game in one sitting, and isn’t really the fault of the developers. Still, it would be nice to go back and replay some specific segments of FLUX at will.
My one complaint aside, the absolute best part of FLUX or any BIT.TRIP game is the chiptune soundtrack! There’s nothing quite like it out there in gaming. FLUX’s rhythm-based gameplay is so meticulously constructed that it’s hard to imagine the game any other way. Success rewards the player with a robust, energetic sound that gets the feet tapping and the blood pumping. On the other hand, failure results in a sparse and barren sound that, if left unchecked, will land you in the dreaded nether. Think of it as your last chance at salvaging your play through. In the nether, color becomes monochromatic and the energetic soundtrack vanishes, replaced by the eerie sound of a heart monitor. The player is constantly reminded of their successes and failures in FLUX in a way that few games can match.
Thankfully I had a couple days off during which I could play BIT.TRIP FLUX extensively. It was time well spent. FLUX is a fantastic game and one that everybody should at least try. For those of you out there willing to put in the time, you’ll find an engaging and unique experience that you won’t soon forget. Plus, at 800 Wii Points, the price is right.
Oh and one last thing… if you manage to complete FLUX, come find me and help me out, because damned if I can’t get past the second checkpoint on level three.
BIT.TRIP FLUX was designed by Gaijin Games and released on February 28, 2011 for Nintendo’s WiiWare service at the cost of 800 Wii Points.