Bit.Trip Beat could just as easily have been named Super Chiptune Pong. The concept is simple: Hit block-shaped notes with your paddle as they come at you from the right side of the screen. However, add in beats that bounce back and forth, move sporadically, and multiply, and you’ve got your hands full with an onslaught of challenge. Are you fast enough to keep up with the beat?
Bit.Trip Beat has two meters, one for beats hit and the other for beats missed. If you fill up the ‘hit’ meter first, both meters reset and the visuals get kicked up a notch. Filling up the ‘miss’ meter (which takes considerably fewer misses) sends you into the black and white nether realm, a musical limbo where the music almost completely cuts out. Filling up the hit meter in this mode brings you back into the track, while missing more notes ends the game.
As you progress through each song, the beats vary in slight ways that make the gameplay a little more complex. New note types are constantly thrown in, but they don’t have a formal introduction, so you’ll need to figure them out for yourself. Things can get tricky, especially since the difficulty curve is a little too steep for its own good.
Insane in the membrane.
Co-op multiplayer is available over Bluetooth and local Wi-Fi. Here you can pair up with a friend to play levels cooperatively. This eases up the difficulty a little. As they say, two is better than one. Unfortunately, only the iPhone version of the game has online multiplayer (via Game Center). Hopefully the iPad version will get the same treatment when Game Center becomes available for it.
For your initial purchase, Bit.Trip Beat offers up three trippy and well-produced, pre-scripted songs, two of which must be unlocked. However, for the $7.99 launch price, this isn’t much, and you may lose interest once you master each song’s pattern. Three more songs can be bought in a $1.99 bundle, but in our opinion they should have been included in the first place.
Bit.Trip Beat has some great little touches, including increasingly crazy lighting effects for performing well and cool cross-fading in the music. As you move through the galaxy with your trusty paddle, space stations and pulsing planets will float by. Plus, the neon colors really pop off the screen.
Songs deemed too intense for the Wii finds a new home.
On the iPad, Bit.Trip Beat has excellent drag-based touch controls. There is also an option to tilt the device to move the paddle, but this isn’t precise enough, and we wouldn’t pick it over the touch controls.
We should note that the iPad version has much better controls than the iPhone version. Because it’s been squeezed on the smaller screen, the iPhone touch controls cause you to block too much of the screen, while the tilt controls are imprecise.
Bit.Trip Beat is certainly among the more unique takes on Pong we’ve played (and there have been a lot). iPad owners who fancy a challenge and some beautiful bleep-bloop chiptunes will love the game, but we would approach the iPhone version with caution due to the sloppy controls. And if you’re prone to seizures, better stay far away.