Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Review Tank - Bit.Trip FLUX

Bit.Trip FLUX Review
by BitNick

Those of you who have been following 8BitVS since it's inception will know that I am a fan of the Bit.Trip series. In the short space of two years, Gaijin Games, the developers of Bit.Trip, have gone from being relative nobodies to being a well-known innovative force in the industry in the short space of two years because of Bit.Trip.

Through the Bit.Trip games, which were all downloadable rather than retail releases, we have seen them both emulate and evolve different gaming genres that have often flirted with becoming stale. Gaijin has, in the six game series, re-imagined Pong, platforming games (like Mario), shooters (like Raiden), and rhythm games (like Guitar Hero and Rock Band).

With an impressive pedigree built in such a short time, Bit.Trip Flux, the final game in the series, had to be special. In spite of the fact that the every Bit.Trip entry has featured silent exposition, if any at all, people have been anxiously awaiting the final chapter of Commander Video's journey home.

If only that were true, Commader...
If only that were true...
-Play Control-

As far as gameplay goes, Bit.Trip Flux plays like a mirror image of the first game in the series, Bit.Trip Beat. Although the control setup is almost identical to Beat's, Gaijin Games has nailed the play control for Flux. Using the Wii Remote's most accurate accelerometers (those for "roll" axis, for those who are aviationally inclined, or those for "turning the Wii Remote gangsta' style" for the rest of us), you control a paddle and bounce back "bits" in synchronized and complementary timing with the music.
This simple explanation belies the difficulty that awaits the player as the patterns become faster and more complex, and tight control is A NECESSITY for a game like this to be enjoyable on any level. Luckily everything is honed to perfection, and the controls have even been refined in small ways over what was offered in Bit.Trip Beat.


As I mentioned above, the basic idea for Flux is the same as that of Bit.Trip Beat. The goal of the game is to move a "pong-like" paddle to bounce back a variety of bits as they fly in from the left side of the screen. Players of Beat will realize that this setup is opposite to that of Beat, where the bits came in from the right. In spite of the similarity, however, new play mechanics, types of bits, and engagingly retro-styled boss battles keep this from feeling like a stale re-hash of old ground, and make Flux feel like an evolution of Beat's ideas, rather than a lazy cash-in.
Part of the increased difficulty is offset by a checkpoint system that has been put in place by the guys at Gaijin. Although the game is still challenging, the checkpoints will no doubt be a welcome addition for those who have had trouble with the previous games in the series.
With enough new things under it's belt, Flux shows that there is a fresh way to look at every idea.


The games in the Bit.Trip series aren't famous for their incredibly deep stories or acute characterization, but what story is present is well-executed. I am not an emotional person by nature, but as I started the game for the first time, and watched the opening video showing symbols representing Commander Video and his friends as they interacted, I was struck with sadness. The end, although just as symbolically driven, was cathartic.
The story, like its protagonist, is a minimalist affair, but has the capability to be surprisingly poignant at times.


 As always, the music in Bit.Trip Flux is pitch-perfect (pun intended). The idea to make the player an active participant in creating the soundtrack based on their in-game performance was a master-stroke, and although it has been done once or twice before, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a game where it was better implemented.
In way of anecdotal evidence, I was playing Flux in preparation for this review when a friend of mine stopped by the house. He sat down as we talked, and I continued playing. His attention was drawn more and more toward the screen, until the conversation quieted and we both sat watching me try to bounce every bit, and hit every beat. After a few moments silence, he uttered the words, "This game is... BEAUTIFUL. The music is amazing, and the designs [created by the bits] are awesome. Whoever made this is a genius."
I am inclined to agree.

-Visuals/Art Style-

Although the graphical demands of a game like Flux are not usually something that is seen as "cutting edge", the graphical flourishes and general sense of polish are evident. When compared side by side with Beat, one can see how much the developers at Gaijin Games have matured in the past two years since the first game was released. There are competent uses of particle effects, fun new ways for the bits to react to hitting the paddle you control, and a refined feeling to the visuals that leaves little to be desired. The delightfully minimalist cutscenes between levels are a treat of subtle gradients and geometric figures, and the backgrounds during gameplay, though cumbersome in a very few situations, are engaging and, for fans of the series, meaningful.

Gaijin Games has crafted a striking sendoff for a series that truly deserved it. Solid controls, a few new ideas, (great) adaptive music, and steep difficulty mean that suffering panic-attacks as bits streak toward you has never felt so good.

Click the scoreboard above to read the specifics!

Do you agree with our review? Disagree? Hate Commander Video like you hate happiness and goodness in the world? Let us know in the comments!



  1. I've never given any of the games in this series a chance really. I have one of the demos downloaded, but don't even know which one...

    I haven't really gotten into the "music" games, though I'll play them if they're around.

    About how many hours do you think it would take, from start to finish, to complete Bit.Trip Flux?

  2. @Coffee

    I'm not a huge fan of music games either, but for me, the Bit.Trip series is different. They do have heart, and REALLY great concepts.

    That said, they may not be for everyone, but I know you like a challenge, and FLUX will give you one...

    Because of the new checkpoint system, which takes some of the pressure off the player, I think a guy like you could sit down and play for 2 hours straight and finish it easily.

    Let me know if you decide to give it a try!


  3. i love the bit trip games i've played so far.. we have the first 4 and plan on getting the other two when we get our next card.
    so far my favorite is runner... but level 3-11 is killing me!

  4. @My Little Gamer

    Oh, a fellow fan, eh? I really do love the Bit.Trip series, and think that Gaijin Games has, in some ways, done more for video games in the last two years than most of the Triple-A developers.

    Funny enough, I just finished Bit.Trip RUNNER (and referenced my quest to finish it in this article) 3 days after this review, even though I had owned it for MONTHS! The reason why... LEVEL 3-11! I got stuck on it on Christmas day, and finally got the motivation to finish the game after finishing FLUX.

    You can do it! It takes a lot of patience, and a lot of trial and error, but that's alright.


  5. Man, I loved this game. And the (limited) story. And I'm not really a gamer!!

    Great review, unique review system with the "tanks". I love you! :)

  6. I too am definitely a huge Bit.Trip fan.

    I still need to download the last two game, but I can't get excited about WiiWare anymore.

  7. @ Guy
    "I still need to download the last two games, but I can't get excited about WiiWare anymore."

    I understand your feelings, but the last two Bit.Trip games are WORTH THE EXTRA EFFORT. Let me know if you decide to get them!



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