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Bit.Trip Fate Review


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On 11/10/2010 at 11:16 PM by Nick DiMola

Take control of Commander Video once again for his latest challenging adventure.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of Bullet Hell Shmups and the Bit.Trip series.

The Bit.Trip series has taken its star character, Commander Video, through a variety of different experiences all of which hearken back to gaming of yesteryear. Fate, the latest title in the series, carries the aesthetic of the titles which precede it, but makes a leap into more modern day gaming experiences with its bullet hell shoot 'em up based gameplay. Like the other games in the series, the concept is not without a twist, and a rail would be Fate's. This rail winds around the screen, allowing players to only travel forward and backward along whatever path the rail has set, and shoot in any given direction. As we've come to expect from the series, this makes for a tremendous challenge that will take players a significant number of replays to conquer.

Just as the presentation, the game's general level structure and theme has stayed the same. Levels are extremely long, somewhere on the magnitude of ten minutes, and they all conclude with a boss encounter of some sort. Like all bullet hell shmups, the level boss is typically of epic proportions, and sheets of projectiles are dumped on the screen leaving players to weave about them to avoid getting hit. Of course, being on a rail complicates this matter significantly, making it that much tougher in Fate. Thankfully, players have a reasonable amount of life to expend if they have performed well in the level leading up to the boss encounter.

Along the way, as players defeat enemies and collect the cross-shaped item they drop when they die, they build up their combo. Each combo increase will make Commander Video's shot much larger and give him an extra notch on his health bar. If players are hit, their combo will subsequently decrease to the step before, changing both Commander Video's shot and amount of health. This undoubtedly changes up play techniques throughout the level, pushing players to perform to the best of their ability in order to be optimally prepared for the boss. To help players along the way are power-ups on the track, each of which change Commander Video's bullet stream for a limited time.

As the series has dictated to this point, Fate is quite simple in concept, allowing the gameplay to speak for itself. What's present here is quite enjoyable, and extremely well-executed, but unbelievably difficult. This is especially true when players reach the end of the level and must face-off against the boss. Frustratingly, these encounters, at least for me, often ended in defeat, forcing me to replay the entire level to take another shot at the boss. What's worse, the level itself was basically a breeze in comparison, making an unnecessary ten minute build up to retry the battle due to the lack of checkpoints.

I found most of my frustration came from navigating the rail in certain spots during the boss battle, with the second boss encounter specifically coming to mind. Here, the rail in the boss segment was nearly vertical, meaning I still needed to use left and right to navigate forward and back, which created an obvious disconnect in my brain when trying to navigate the rail. I kept trying to use up and down to no avail, which ultimately resulted in my death, forcing me to replay the relatively unchallenging level.

While this became particularly frustrating after a few losses, this level of challenge and replay will sit differently with everyone. What can universally be agreed upon is that Fate, like the rest of the series, has some great style and music.

The soundtrack is catchy, and the events which tie to on-screen action all have a sound effect that sync up with the track. As you might expect, this makes the entire presentation feel extremely cohesive, and it makes the background song feel dynamic and always different with each playthrough.

Visually, Fate isn't quite as flashy as games prior, but its tone and presentation fit the gameplay and the laid back soundtrack well. Oddly, it feels almost opposite of the hectic, bullet-filled screen, but that only helps in focusing on successfully navigating the hazards.

Bit.Trip Fate is likely to have limited appeal, but it's definitely my favorite edition of the series, bumping Beat down from the top slot. It's more approachable than past games, and ultimately more enjoyable as well. If you can tolerate replaying long, challenging levels and boss fights, Fate couldn't be a better purchase.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Anonymous

11/12/2010 at 03:31 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Not a bad review, but yet another that makes no mention of the fact that your rate of movement along the rail increases when not firing your weapon. This is essentially the single greatest source of depth and variation as you attempt to navigate certain areas cleanly, or correct mistakes that you recognized from previous stage attempts. Does this element just blend in so well that people completely forget to mention it?

Nick DiMola Director

11/13/2010 at 11:22 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

This is something I noticed, but I didn't particularly find it to be something that brought depth and variation, it was just a tool in your belt to assist you through the level.

I would say that it does blend in well because it wasn't immediately obvious. Also, most people tend to play games of this genre holding down the fire button without letting off, so I'm sure some people never noticed it.

Jason Ross Senior Staff

11/13/2010 at 02:18 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

There's several shoot-em-ups that allow things similar to that in their gameplay. Space Invaders: Infinity Gene lets you shoot faster if you don't move, for example. I don't know if that's really all so interesting or very noteworthy.

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