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Writer and podcast crew-member Jack takes on the latest entry in one of his favorite indie game series'-- but can Runner2 stand tall on the shoulders of its beloved predecessors?
Upon commencement of the critically acclaimed BIT.TRIP series, Santa Cruz-based developer 'Gaijin Games'-- formerly a simple and passionate three-man group freely designing titles emulating the Atari games they loved-- was rife with change. In addition to lead programmer and co-founding member Chris Osborn's departure to form TRACER, in an extremely swift, savvy, and hostile move, Gaijin CEO Alex Neuse went on a "company acquisition rampage" and absorbed small-time developer 'Robotube' in an effort to branch out and emulate large-scale publishers such as Activision and Electronic Arts, more than doubling the amount of staff.
Gaijin's first post-acquisition move was the announcement of a sequel to perhaps the most accessible game in the slightly niche-audience BIT.TRIP canon in BIT.TRIP RUNNER, a fluid, seamless, and addicting rhythm game ingeniously masquerading as an on-rails platformer (you can read my review of the original here). Early game screenshots indicated the sequel, officially named Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, would be comprised of a completely different aesthetic than what we'd come to expect from BIT.TRIP, capturing more of a mainstream indie vibe as opposed to a modern take on Atari games. Would Runner2 expand upon the seedlings the first Runner game planted and blossom into a successful sequel, or would the ruthless, downright blasphemous moves Alex Neuse made as a businessperson osmose into the game and make it cave-in from sheer shallowness?
It's the first one.