Gaijin Games' next project is exactly what Bit.Trip Runner fans are looking for.
The best thing I can say about Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (or simply, Runner 2) is that it feels like Bit.Trip Runner. The graphics might have changed, but the game still plays the same. What it adds, though, is just more happiness...and dancing.
They improve on what made the original work. It was upbeat, unlike Gaijin's first few Bit.Trip games, which were kind of depressing. Gaijin Games Co-Founder Mike Roush said that the depressing nature of the first games wasn't intentional, but the feeling was likely subconsciously included.
Gaijin Games was formed by Roush, Alex Neuse, and Chris Osborn in 2008, right before the economy started tanking. The trio had quit their jobs at game studios and sunk all their money into their own start-up, on the cusp of a time when doing that was extremely risky. They developed the first few Bit.Trip titles under intense situations, working until 2 a.m. with regularity and thinking that their company could die at almost any moment. Bit.Trip Runner, the fourth game in the series, was developed after they realized that things were actually working out. Thus, it was a happier game. The music was lighter, the colors were brighter, and the gameplay was generally more upbeat. I mean, Commander Video shits out rainbows. That's bonkers and inspiring.
Runner 2 brings all that fun to the table and then some. Almost immediately after starting the PAX East demo up, a stupid grin spread across my face. This game just works for me. Outside of the old moves from the original, the games adds a dance button. It serves a function - your score increases when you dance - but it's primarily a fun thing to do. It's the foot-tapping version of A Boy and His Blob's hug button.
Replacing the original's retro-inspired bonus stages is a simple timing-based cannon game. If you collect all the gold pieces, Commander Video hops into a cannon and you have to time the button press to get him to hit a bullseye. Is it as cool as the first game's bonus stages? No, but it's quicker and less difficult. It still you gives you that nice sense of accomplishment, though.
The game also adds checkpoints and branching paths. Checkpoints help stunt the game's occasional brutal difficulty. However, you can jump over a checkpoint to get a better score. If you do that and die, though, you start the entire level over. Branching paths offer rewards for going through optional, harder areas.
The finished game will have 100 levels spread across five worlds, complete with boss battles. There are secret levels, characters, and costumes, and there are even multiple difficulty levels.
Runner 2 is currently unconfirmed on Wii U, but hey, you know it is scheduled for a November or December 2012 release. At the very least, you might be playing it on your Xbox 360 or PS3 while you play Pikmin 3 or something on your shiny new Nintendo system.