I just spent 40 minutes completing the Gall Blaster level on Bit.Trip Runner…
…yet not once did I get frustrated, or want to give up. Despite my many clumsy failures, all the times I crashed into walls or fell down holes, I never got fed up of trying. And when I eventually completed it, I didn’t just reach the finish line in one piece. I 100%-ed it. I got all the gold bars, hit all the crosses, and I bounced across the finish line like a rainbow powered pogo stick. I don’t know of any other game where I would be willing to spend so much time on a single level only to not just beat it, but get a perfect score out of it (on the first complete try).
It’s the music, of course. Bit.Trip Runner is easily the best music game I’ve ever played. Everything about the game is informed by music. Every obstacle, every pickup and jumppad, is quantised to the music. Even without the feedback of hitting the crosses, or falling down a pit, you know when you’re doing well because every button press is in time with the music. And brilliantly, this extends to the design of the levels too. Every level is full of repeating patterns – bounce up these steps, hit the jump-pad, duck under the pipe, then do it again – structured like a great piece of music.
But the key thing, the whole reason that I’m willing to spend 40 minutes on a single level in this game, is that the music never stops. When you hit an obstacle and get zapped back to the start of the level, the music doesn’t pause or break. It carries on, barely even acknowledging anything’s happened. This is a game which makes you feel incredible when you complete a level – bouncing across the finish line with your rainbow cape trailing behind you – yet completing the level is almost beside the point. For a game as hard as this, it’s remarkably easy to fall into a zen state where failures just don’t matter. It’s the experience that counts, not the outcome.