BIT.TRIP RERUNNER Review (PS5) – A Charming but Repetitive Rhythmic Romp

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER Review (PS5) – Returning to the roots of its original title, BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is a full remake of the classic BIT.TRIP RUNNER and manages to restore the original experience with a modern take on its visuals.

Despite this admirable effort to do so – and the fun that can be had once you understand the deceptively complex mechanics at the heart of BIT.TRIP RUNNER, this remake never feels like it lives up to its full potential and it was disappointingly bland without nostalgia to carry me through it.

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER Review (PS5) – A Charming But Repetitive Rhythmic Romp

Following and Making the Beat

To say BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a rhythm game is technically correct, but it stands out amongst its contemporaries as most of your time in stages will be spent making the music sync up to the beat with your actions.

There are musical stings that accompany every jump, kick or block you complete. This leads to layered musical tracks that actively shift around you as you play.

Once you manage to get a grasp on the surprisingly high number of options you have to navigate the obstacles in front of you, the result can be a satisfyingly complex and layered musical piece that you’ve helped to orchestrate in some form.

Each stage follows largely the same formula, with particular obstacles demanding particular actions to navigate them. Both rhythm games and platformers demand a particular level of visual cohesion to ensure that the experience makes sense and also intuitively alert players to what they need to do.

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER struggles to create this visual language and left me feeling confused and generally frustrated when I got hit by something.

Elements sometimes blend into the new 3D environments, leading to deaths that felt completely unearned on my part. Short pitfalls in the road were sometimes invisible unless I shifted my focus to stare exclusively at the floor in certain environments, which isn’t ideal when the rest of the screen also holds its own threats.

Similarly, I found frustrations with how other obstacles appear to exist purely to confuse.

You can block one type of fireball and not a different kind for seemingly no reason. My muscle memory was used against me and just ended up leaving me confused and frustrated as I slogged through every level.

While I felt like this was an intentional design, it wasn’t a design philosophy that managed to leave a mark on me and get me pumped up for another level. Overly heavy jumps and punishing timings felt far closer to frustrating than entertaining.

If At First, You Don’t Succeed…

With the frustrations with unfair deaths, it’s very lucky that the game wastes no time in getting you back on your feet for another crack at a tough section.

That and not being limited by a life counter meant that I wasn’t ever hugely punished for something that felt out of control.

There are also options to lower the difficulty by reducing the density of obstacles throughout the levels. This option was appreciated and gave me a far better way to learn the types of things I would come up against, even if it didn’t solve every issue I had as I struggled to get a grip on the experience.

While these inclusions are appreciated, they do little to actually address the problem that lies at the heart of the loop of this remake, and I have to question why more wasn’t done to try and change these issues in a full remake.

A New Coat of Paint

Compared to the intentionally retro aesthetic of the original game, RERUNNER offers a new coat of paint that serves to both enhance and slightly muddle the experience for me overall.

As mentioned above, obstacles can blend into these new environments which can lead to frustrating moments of repeated failures that feel really out of your control.

I also found the environments to lose some of their charm when translated from 2D to 3D, but I suspect this might come down to personal preference rather than anything quantifiable.

Despite this, I was left disappointed with the lack of visual variety within this remake, with only 5 being in the game across the main campaign and all of the bonus levels that the game offers.

On top of the remade original levels from BIT.TRIP RUNNER, this remake offers an admittedly impressive catalogue of bonuses for players who have a history with the series as a whole, with music reaching across the entire RUNNER series.

While your mileage will absolutely vary with these, the decision to include these elements is one that only benefits those who have enjoyed the series for a long time.

Just Keep on Running

The other half of this package can be found in the surprisingly robust RUNNER MAKER mode – which is exactly what it sounds like.

Included with the already meaty main campaign is a level creator that offers a staggering amount of flexibility for players who really want to make some levels that you wouldn’t expect to see in the main game.

During the tutorial for level creation, a tooltip appeared on screen that informed me that every premade level in BIT.TRIP RERUNNER was created using this exact level editor, and that’s always a good sign in my books.

Players are being granted the opportunity to create their own levels without feeling like they’re missing out on part of the experience, that is so common with other level editors.

The effort here is admirable and the editor itself is relatively intuitive to use, with an informative tutorial and well laid out menus to navigate to help you bring your ideas to life.

Music from across the entire series is available to use, so I’m more than certain that RUNNER veterans will already be brainstorming particularly nasty ideas for some tough levels.

Despite the clear effort that’s gone into this editor, I do find the lack of visual variety to be a big sticking point here and a concern when thinking about the longevity of the game as a whole.

In their experience with the main campaign, players will have already likely become tired of the few themes on offer, and with only 5 to be used in the editor itself, including a retro-themed one, there’s a worry that online levels will become visually stale and lose steam as a result.

A Treat for Fans

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is a title made with fans at the forefront of what it wants to do – and I can very much respect it for that.

While I may find the gameplay of BIT.TRIP RERUNNER to be more frustrating than fun – especially in terms of just how you go about beating stages – that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the heart on show here.

Clear effort has been gone into creating a timepiece for players of the series to come to and appreciate the long legacy of the RUNNER franchise and that adds another sense of value to this remake as a product.

A rich exhibition of concept art, developer comments and poems help to add context to the BIT.TRIP experience, in ways that I could have never ever have foreseen.

As someone only passively aware of the series before jumping into this game, I was more than a little confused when I read a breakdown of the narrative of BIT.TRIP as an introspective journey about learning to be human.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t have pinned that type of story to be in this type of game, but I appreciated the developer commentary nonetheless. Even if it comes off as a little bit pretentious.

These additions really help to fill out the package and let me appreciate RERUNNER for far more than just its gameplay, even if it doesn’t end up completely redeeming itself in my eyes.

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is now available on PS5.

Review code generously provided by publisher.



The Final Word

BIT.TRIP RERUNNER is a polarising game that manages to mix some of the most heartening extra features that I've seen in a remake collection with some of the most frustrating gameplay that I've experienced in a rhythm platformer. I can absolutely see the foundations of a solid rhythm platformer here, but I feel like in being so rooted in tradition, this remake loses the potential to bring new people in. While I could see myself getting used to the heavy physics and visual language of RERUNNER, the unfortunate lack of visual variety in this package means that I found myself growing relatively tired before I reached the end. The level editor is a wonderful addition that suffers from this as well. Despite this, I left RERUNNER feeling generally impressed with the care that's been put in, but this is one for the fans.