‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent’. Isn’t that an interesting thought? A fellow called Victor Hugo said that. He was a French author, poet and playwright who lived through the Romantic Movement in France which was quite some time ago. Much has changed since then, but human’s interaction and relationship with music isn’t one of them. Music is still a huge part of people’s lives whether you’re in the music industry as a professional, or you just turn on the radio whilst you’re doing chores. Music is there somewhere in your life. In addition to this, music plays a huge part in art outside of itself such as performing arts, dance, cinema, and of course video games. A development team that have explored and experimented with the relationship between video games, music, game play and the player are Gaijin Games.
Today, we’ll be looking at Gaijin Game’s recent sound sensation to hit Steam BIT. TRIP FATE. If you are not familiar with the series, Gaijin Game’s most recognisable IP is the BIT. TRIP series which follow the adventures of Commander Video and friends. The games are very stylised both visually and audibly due to the developers being heavily influenced by retro gaming, chiptunes and philosophies. Commander Video was not fleshed out until BIT. TRIP RUNNER due to the previous games in the series focusing on the abstract philosophies and concepts, such as what it means to be human*. There are seven games currently in the series which are all currently available on Steam, the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo 3DS, apart from BIT. TRIP FLUX which is currently only available for the Nintendo consoles in a collection (BIT. TRIP SAGA for the 3DS and BIT. TRIP COMPLETE for the Wii in case you were curious).
Fate is the penultimate chapter in the BIT. TRIP series and it certainly stays loyal to the style of its predecessors. Everything we loved is here: 2.5D side scrolling, reflex-testing gameplay, the well-known aesthetic style, guest character appearances and flawless music and gameplay synchronisation. The foundations are here, but that’s as far as it goes. The main difference that sets Fate apart from it’s counterparts is the use of music. Previously in the BIT. TRIP series the games were completely defined by their soundtrack as well as their gameplay, for example in BIT. TRIP RUNNER/Runner 2 both soundtrack and gameplay were the core elements of the game. In Fate music and gameplay are not equal – this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different.
The gameplay is the main focus with the soundtrack accompanying it. The music is different this time around too. As I mentioned previously BIT. TRIP soundtracks are all chiptune-inspired, but this time around in Fate, dubstep makes a loud wub wub wub appearance. Surprisingly chiptune and dubsteb work together incredibly well, so if you’re a fan of either genre be sure to check it out, it won’t disappoint. The dubstep is subtle and doesn’t drown out the chiptune-inspired aspect of the soundtrack which is a relief, in fact the main point in the game where the dubstep is most noticeable is when the player picks up a Super Meat Boy power up, but more on that later.
Chiptunes and dubstep aren’t the only mix of genres in Fate, the entire game is an interesting cocktail of genres. At it’s very core Fate is a side-scrolling rail shooter. The rail is predefined by definition, however players can actually see the rail before they travel on it. The rail is rarely straight, often going up and down in straight/bent lines, meaning that players will have to be tactical when avoiding enemy fire. Additionally depending on whether the rail goes up or down, Commander Video will change speeds meaning the rail shooter aspect of Fate adds a lot of strategy to the game. Other genres that make up the fun cocktail of Fate are the shmup (shoot ‘em up) and bullet hell genres. A very unusual mix, but it works. Gaijin have taken all of the best elements of these four genres and put them together to make a very challenging and unique game. Fate is actually a lot harder than a lot of bullet hell games simply due to the elements of the other genres, it’s not just a bullet hell, it’s a controlled hell. For example players cannot move anywhere to avoid a stream of bullets due to having a predetermined path, which makes avoiding bullets much more difficult, but on the flip side it’s much more satisfying.
Fate consists of a total of six levels which are curiously all named after emotions: patience, determination, desperation, frustration, anger and fall. Why they are named as such is open to interpretation, but it seems to be how Commander Video is feeling throughout all the levels. Six levels means that Fate is a relatively ‘short’ game if you just play through it once, however there are three modes; easy, medium and hard, which hasn’t been a feature in previous BIT. TRIP titles, so that adds a new element of challenge/play-back value. Each level takes 5-10 minutes to complete, although you will die many, many times simply due to the nature of BIT. TRIP games (cry into the keyboard difficult). Fate really isn’t one of those shooters where players can just hold down the fire button, move forward and destroy everything in their path instantly. In fact, when players are firing Commander Video actually moves much slower which adds yet another element of strategy. Players can’t just constantly fire to get through the level quickly, they must hang back and carefully determine their next move.
To aid you on your difficult bullet ridden quests, in true shmup style there are power-ups. Commander Video’s power-ups are a little different to the standard power-ups you see in shmups, which is a welcome change. The power-ups in Fate take the form of Commander Video’s friends, whom when called upon will circle Commander Video making him impervious to bullets for a temporary amount of time. His friends will also simultaneously upgrade his weapon. For example, help from CommandgirlVideo will give Commander Video the ability to shoot in two opposing directions at once, whereas Super Meat Boy will allow him to shoot lovely giant square bullets that devastate enemies. Power ups take the form of a picture of each of Commander Video’s friends. The picture changes in a small time frame so players can strategically pick the best power up for the situation. I won’t go into detail about all the power-ups/characters because part of the fun is discovering them all, however I will say they are all varied and good fun.
Fate is easily one of the most creative games released so far this year in terms of concept and music. The BIT. TRIP series have been a favourite of many for quite some time now and Fate will certainly not disappoint fans – it may surprise them, but disappoint it will not. The main ‘flaw’ with Fate is it’s difficulty, however it’s not particularly fair to consider this a flaw as the BIT. TRIP series is all about difficulty and testing your reactions. Even with the addition of ‘easy’ mode the game is still quite difficult. Perhaps the addition of a mid-way check point (Runner 2 style!) when playing the game in easy difficulty would have been a good way to address this. If you’re looking for an easy ride, then Fate is not for you. Setting aside this one minor complaint, BIT. TRIP FATE is a game worthy of your time and money. If you like shoot ‘em ups, buy it. If you like side scrolling/rail-shooters, buy it. If you like bullet hells, buy it. If you’re just a fan of chiptunes and dubstep but don’t want to buy the game then great news, you can buy just the soundtrack on Steam! Gaijin Games have got everything covered. Fate is fun, very challenging, has a great and subtle soundtrack but above all it is unique, bringing the best elements from a host of genres to the table and cooking up something outstanding for players to sink their teeth into. Fate is currently available on Steam for £6.99, or £8.99 with the soundtrack, and finally you can buy just the soundtrack for £4.99.
You can buy the game over on steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/205080/
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.