Developer: Namco Mobile
Price: $3.99 ($1.99 Level Pack In-App Purchase Available)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

There will be a segment of the population that will find BIT.TRIP BEAT to be absolutely brilliant and sublime. They will love the design aesthetic and the way the game blends old school gameplay with music seamlessly. Then there are those that will find the game’s attempts at art to be mere distractions to the gameplay, which is fraught with cheap dot patterns coupled with a lack of checkpoints, along with control issues. This review comes from a member of the latter crowd.

BIT.TRIP BEAT is at its core similar to brick breaker/pong games, where you control a paddle trying to hit back the dots coming at you. The difference is that each dot represents a musical note that flies in from the right side of the screen (and your right speaker) that plays on the left speaker when you hit it, forming the notes of the chiptune song that is playing, each level comprising a song. If you let too many dots fly past you, the screen goes black and white, and you have to hit enough dots back to make the top bar of the screen empty before your life bar on the bottom empties, or else it is game over.

The sound design of the game is absolutely fantastic. The game recommends that you play with headphones, and I suggest that you do just that, as it is an aural delight. When you really get going and get into the game, the experience is sublime, blending the basic gameplay with the music in a way that is absolutely incredible. For pure sensual experiences, this is top-notch. The game supports local multiplayer via Bluetooth as well, even allowing play across iPhone and iPad versions of the game.

But BIT.TRIP BEAT starts to suffer when put under the microscope. The first issue I have is that the game doesn’t seem to know what a checkpoint is. If you die at a section, you have to start the whole level over, and there are so many unpredictable dot patterns that are only beatable by rote memorization, so restarts are frequent. The tilt controls are practically worthless and need user-adjustable sensitivity options to make them feel more precise. The touch controls on iPad also are 1:1 movement only, which leads to some uncomfortable thumb stretching as you move up and down. Some kind of offset touch controls would make the game control far better. And then there’s just the whole fact that this is a game that is explicitly designed to challenge you by way of visual distraction as much as it is by gameplay design.

BIT.TRIP BEAT feels like a divisive game – creative, right brain types will likely appreciate the game for its art and can look past the flaws. Logical, left brain types will struggle with the game’s flaws to enjoy the core product. I find myself in the latter crowd, struggling to enjoy a game that is alternately brilliant and frustrating.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, Reviews

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