The core basics of Bit.trip Core

I really liked Bit.trip: Beat. The combination of retro gaming style, excellent music, underlying narrative, and addictive gameplay put it up among my favorite Wii titles. So imagine my surprise last Monday (editor’s note: Jenn sucks) when I noticed that a sequel, Bit.trip: Core had been released on WiiWare for 600 points!

As its predecessor had done for Breakout-style games, Bit.trip: Core takes the notion of classic, single-screen shooters and spins it off into a new, equally rhythmic direction. Whereas in the first game you were a paddle bouncing pellets to create musical notes, here you are an icon in the center of the screen capable of aiming and firing a beam in four directions, albeit only one at a time. Pellets will appear from all corners of the screen, and you must shoot them before they escape. It sounds deceptively simple, but the game is difficult. Ample reflexes, pattern recognition, and spatial skills –- which block will enter your range of fire first?—are important, but as with Bit.trip: Beat, to truly excel at the game you must lose yourself in it and the music. It’s a zen gaming experience.

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Tripping to the blips of Bit.trip Beat

Kevin Bunch’s Otocky retrospective reminded me that Bit.trip: Beat just arrived on WiiWare!


After rearranging my Wii’s disk space to accommodate the comparatively large download—catch you on the flipside, Paper Mario—I settled in for some truly excellent, old-school synesthesia.

Bit.trip: Beat is a paddle game: think Arkanoid, Breakout, Pong or, ahem, Circus Atari. Here, though, the paddle control is gracefully approximated by very gently rocking the Wii remote forward and back. As with classic paddle games, the controls are ‘twitchy’ and require only very fine movements.

Your onscreen ‘paddle’ (which is to say, your avatar, or, you know, the line) moves vertically along the far left of the screen, and little pellets fly onto the screen from the right, hurtling toward the paddle. And the point is to hit them. Simple. Each pellet represents a kind of a musical note, too, so as you bat the pellets away, the game’s melody emerges. So far, easy enough.

But as you progress through the game, the choreography of the pellets becomes increasingly intricate. Soon those specks are weaving in and out of one another, changing shape and size, or cruelly altering their course midflight. In that way, Bit.trip: Beat is a classic gamer’s classic game: it’s all reflexes and pattern memorization.

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Synesthesia in early gaming, NES style

To say the NES’s musical capabilities are famous is an understatement. With tunes like the Super Mario theme and the soundtracks to Mega Man 2, Castlevania, Contra, and dozens of other games, the system’s little sound chip can pump out some incredible music. The NES is practically a founding member of the chiptune musical genre, alongside such luminaries as the Commodore 64 and the Atari 800. Thus when I heard about an oddball, Famicom Disk System-only ‘musical shooter’ entitled Otocky my interest was piqued.

Otocky is the brainchild of Toshio Iwai, known more recently as the developer for Nintendo’s Electroplankton, and was released in 1987 by the ASCII Corporation. You play a weird little orange thing with cartoony eyes, arms, and legs that flies through inconsequential backgrounds populated with even stranger enemies. Your objective is to collect musical notes to fill a meter at the bottom of the screen, at which point the stage will end and you will face off with a giant, foe-spewing musical note. You must then fire off your collected musical notes at the holes in the boss until you’ve used them all. You can collect a bomb power-up, and your normal, boomeranging shot can be tweaked by collecting certain items.

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Eliss would be great if I were any good at it

I’m really, really bad at Eliss, the multi-touch plate-spinning game for iPhone. I think my failure falls somewhere in my personal Venn intersection of shortsightedness, panic, and a total lack of coordination.

You’re nodding and thinking to yourself, “Stop worrying! No one can be that bad at Eliss.” You’re wrong. I am starting to realize there is something genuinely wrong with me.

There are 20 levels. I passed the first stage after a day of trying. I can’t pass the third stage.

I can see what needs to happen, and I want to make that happen, but I’m graceless and stupid, my brain motoring at half-speed. I’ve shown Eliss to others, demonstrating its artfulness and my stupidity. Friends invariably pluck my iPhone from my hands, to show me how it’s done, and then they don’t want to give me my phone back.

“Stop beating my phone game,” I snapped at Scott Sharkey, grabbing at my phone. I put my iPhone somewhere private he couldn’t get to it, like in my purse or in a drawer, I can’t remember. Scott smiled at me quizzically.

This is so frustrating because Eliss is obviously the raddest game for the iPhone yet. And I can’t play it! It’s right in front of me, and I can’t do it! I’d wanted to talk about it once I’d played it except I can’t. I can’t do it. And everyone else can!

Anyway, you’ll love it. It’s a $3.99 download.

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Throwback games are awesome.

The other day I was making the usual internet rounds, and came across some people on a retrogaming site talking about an upcoming Wii Ware title, called Bit.Trip Beat. I was intrigued, and went looking for the trailer they mentioned.

To me it looks like what Space Invaders Extreme was to Space Invaders, only in this case, to Pong. I’m a fan of those games with dynamic soundtracks, like the aforementioned Space Invaders Extreme, Orbient, or Rez. And the total late 70s/early 80s graphics are just too awesome to someone whose earliest memories include playing the family Atari.

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Lead: synesthesia homebrew for the 2600

I cannot wait for Lead to come out.

Granted, it’s already out. You can download the ROM (edit: no, no, download this one) and play it right now in a 2600 emulator like Stella. A warning: it’s tough.

Lead is a music shmup from programmer Simone Serra, designed for the Atari 2600. It boasts unforgiving gameplay and a catchy ‘glitch’ soundtrack.

As for the game’s music mechanics, freelancer/archivist/programming hobbyist Jess Ragan says, “Simone [Serra] has done what Tetsuya Mizuguchi could not: create a ‘synesthetic’ shooter that is not entirely dependent on pretty graphics and a pretentious art direction.” His review of an earlier build of Lead, below:

A little over a week ago, AtariAge announced the winner of the Lead Label Contest. The game will ship—with pretty labels on real Atari carts, as God intended!—this December.

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