Bit.Trip Flux Review (WiiWare)

Posted by Jim Cook, Mar 04, 2011 05:22

The Bit.Trip series has primarily been an exercise in mixing rhythm/music game mechanics with one other genre, with some of the more unlikely candidates including side-scrolling shooters and platformers. Bit.Trip Flux is apparently the final entry in this series, and its mixed genre is Pong. Chances are, you’re having one of two reactions right now: Either "Wait... Pong? Seriously?", or "Didn’t they already do that with Bit.Trip Beat?" To the first crowd, they did in fact merge it with Pong and the result is actually very fun. Or for the those who have already played Bit.Trip Beat, you might be interested to know that Flux corrects some of Beat’s flaws and thus amounts to an improved sequel.

Played using just a Wiimote held sideways, Flux lets you guide a Pong paddle by twisting the controller up and down. This is virtually all you do, but it’s plenty to keep you busy since the game sends a barrage of blocky notes at you; deflect them with your paddle and you’re treated to increasingly impressive backgrounds and retro-style music; fail and the performance gets worse or you may even be sent back to your last checkpoint. This ’graphics and sound as reward’ mechanic has been used in most of the other Bit.Trip games, and it still works well here. While Flux is easy to learn, it quickly becomes very challenging both due to the sheer number of notes sent at you (many of which move in creative ways) and the very sensitive controls; they’re accurate, but very twitchy and it takes time to get used to how exactly to move your paddle.

If this were all Flux did, it would be a good but not great game. Thankfully, plenty of other content spices things up. Power-ups can grow or shrink your paddle (and there are valid times for both), while checkpoints at reasonable intervals make sure things are never crushingly unfair; merely very, very challenging. Yet the best part is probably the boss segments that take place at the end of each of Flux’s three stages (which in turn last about five to fifteen minutes apiece). While the normal segments of each stage consist of their ’rhythm Pong’ routine, the boss fights are different; one has you essentially playing Warlords (the old Atari/Arcade ’paddle versus’ game) against the AI, so winning involves breaking through their protective wall to destroy the core while preventing them from doing the same to you.

Co-op play is also provided, which adds another paddle to the screen. The second player just turns on another Wiimote and holds it sideways, twisting it up and down like the main player is. This makes some stages much more reasonable, allowing you to either enjoy a very difficult level alone or make it easier with a friend’s help. Combined with checkpoints, Flux is still a very hard game but rarely becomes unfair; you have options to readily deal with its roughest sections. Regardless of whether you play alone or with a friend, Flux’s appeal of using a mix of old-style ’chiptune’ music, Atari-esque blocky graphics for the main play field, and flashy backgrounds as a reward for skilled play works out well.

Those who have played Bit.Trip Beat may want a quick overview of the differences in Flux, since it’s clearly inspired by that earlier game. The primary changes seem to be improvements to saving your progress since you don’t have to achieve a Leaderboard position to re-access stages you unlock in Flux, and better visuals mostly due to a variety of nice but usually unintrusive effects added to them. There may be other changes, but the author must admit to having not played Beat; finding these differences was the result of playing Flux and comparing those experiences to videos of Beat plus reading common player complaints for that older game.

At first glance, Bit.Trip Flux would seem to have a lot working against it. Where most Bit.Trip games are 600 Wii Points/$6 USD, this one is 800/$8 and revisits ideas already explored in Beat. Despite these issues, the excellent music and sound core game mechanics result in a game that is short but very enjoyable. It seems like a fitting conclusion to the series, and with that in mind I have no problem recommending it for purchase to most audiences; only those adverse to difficult games that require quick reflexes would have much of an issue with this game.


For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Bit.Trip Flux Review (WiiWare)
5.0 Replay
A very linear and rather short game, and only its general quality might keep you coming back once you have mastered it. Its ’length’ primarily comes from its difficulty.
7.5 Graphics
Retro graphics for the main game elements are joined by more modern effects that result in an oddly appealing look.
8.5 Sound
While the sound effects are intentionally basic ’bleeps and bloops’, they combine with excellent ’chiptune’ style music to reward the player.
8.5 Gameplay
’Rhythm Pong’ turns out to be a great idea, with both an easy to learn premise and generally good controls; they’re perhaps a little twitchy, but not at all bad. A high difficulty curve is mitigated by regular checkpoints.
7.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Local co-op is offered, letting another player control an extra paddle. This can make some harder segments much more reasonable.
8.5 Overall
A fine conclusion to an interesting series, fans of previous Bit.Trip titles should enjoy this one as well.

Rating: 5.0, votes: 2

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