App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Bitless is approximately 50 levels of sheer, agonizing pain -- and that's not even counting the boss fights. As a 2D, auto-running platformer, it stands among games like Super Meat Boy, which run players through a gauntlet of increasingly difficult challenges that require lightning quick reflexes, patience, and the mental fortitude to keep track of an ever changing set of variables. It's not an easy game.
Like most auto-runners, players only have direct control over how far the character can jump by touching the screen. The character, represented by a yellow square with an eye, moves along at a quick pace as it heads towards gaps, enemies, across falling blocks, through some very tricky wall jumps and other obstacles. As one might expect, falling through a gap or touching an enemy results in death. But imagine my surprise when, on one level, I missed a jump, ran into a wall and was immediately sent in the opposite direction, helplessly flying off the edge of the platform and plummeting to my death. Lesson learned -- players can only change direction by running into a wall.
The graphics are about as minimal and retro as they can get, owing to the idea that graphics aren't as important as gameplay, and I tend to agree. It's amazing to think that we once criticized games for looking like this, yet we now champion them. And even while I do find them almost too minimal, I can't say the game would be any better for having modern, realistic graphics. It's still hyper-addictive, regardless of what it looks like. Much of the same can be said about the background music, which is a set of classical (or, at least, classical sounding) pieces rendered in a "chiptune" style. Even the menu system pays homage to the days of the C64, with a low-res font and complete lack of scrolling or any other kind of modern interface convenience.
What really makes Bitless work, though, is its humor. Each death is accompanied by a grey screen with a single word, such as, "DELICIOUS," "BALLS," "LOLZ" and "REALLY?!" Then comes the protagonist, a mildly passive-aggressive, grey square with an eye, who welcomes you to this world and beckons you to your death. The game even keeps count of the number of player deaths, world wide. I must mention, however, that the number seems stuck at 60222. I know I contributed at least a hundred or so deaths to that number, yet it remains stuck - something the developer might want to look into fixing.
For gamers who love an addictive, twitchy, hardcore challenge, and don't mind seeing huge swaths of time disappear, who have roommates and family members that don't mind hearing a steady stream of expletives and vain, empty threats, I can't recommend Bitless enough. It's just that good. Others might want to steer clear, however.