Few franchises are as keenly focused as the Bit.Trip series. Each entry has presented players with an elemental control scheme, delightfully retro-inspired visuals and gameplay, along with a pleasingly effervescent chiptune score. Playing a Bit.Trip game is like stepping into a world where technology grudgingly advanced, instead of growing in power exponentially.
The third title in the six part franchise is Bit.Trip Void. The game allows players to control the Void, a black pixelated circle guided with either the Nunchuck’s analog stick or the Classic Classic Controller. The title’s premise is succinctly explained on Void’s title screen: collect the black dots, while avoiding the white dots. As players absorb the dark pieces, their circle increases in diameter- making their onscreen avatar both slower and a likelier target for collision. To circumvent this calamity, players can press the ‘A’ button to shrink their Void to its default size. When players do this, they collect a bonus score based on the size of the black blob, creating an enthralling risk/reward component. Of course, hitting any white blocks also reduces the Void, and hurls players closer to the game’s Netherworld.
As with previous Bit.Trip entries, Void’s purgatory is devoid of both color and the distinctive lively soundtrack. Here, players have one last chance to perform before being shuffled off to the title’s game over screen. Sadly, gamers are never given any visual gauge how close they are to the Netherworld, nor is there any sign how close they are to escape. At least, players that are unsuccessful in fleeing the zone can take solace in the game’s checkpoint system. While previous Bit.Trip entries have forced gamers to retry an entire level, Void integrates four positions in each of the game’s three levels where play can be resumed. Additionally, players are given a limited number of continues, which help to smooth out the title’s sharp challenge level.
Arguably, Bit.Trip Void’s greatest strength is its variety. The game throws every possible gameplay permutation at players- from presenting a myriad of sinuous patterns for the on-screen blocks, to temporarily inverting the control scheme, and even offering a boss stage evoking a 2D driving game. The continuous shift of gameplay is wonderfully adept, and helps to keep Void from becoming a droning one note wonder. At times the game will invoke bullet-hell clouds of pixels, while other moments focus on the title’s rhythmic facets, coercing players to move with the title’s pulsating tempo. At these instances, Void can evoke illustrious Treasure shmup, Ikaruga, with its fluid formation of black and white objects. I’m slightly disappointed that the developers didn’t include an option for the Void to invert colors, opening up a range of possibilities for the game.
Like fan-favorite Rez, the game demands attention for a variety of sensory organs. Void’s visuals evoke the stretched sprites found on Atari 2600 hardware- from the title’s clunky fonts to the muted color scheme of the game’s vibrant background. Chiptune luminary Nullsleep created the game’s luminous soundtrack, which is skillfully augmented every time the player collects a block. Both visual and aural elements are fused by a metronome-like vibration in the Wiimote, allowing the game to become faintly euphoric.
Bit.Trip Void is an imaginative and compelling title, which unlike many of its series brethren, can be perplexingly relaxing. Priced at $6 USD, the title offers more than enough entertainment value to justify its modest cost. I can’t wait to see what the next Bit.Trip titles have in store for us.