Commander Video has finally reached the last leg of his long journey, as the "BIT.TRIP" comes full circle with its latest WiiWare release, "FLUX." This title brings the abstract, 8-bit inspired series to a close, and players may finally find out the destiny of the mysterious man that has been at the helm of six separate titles over the last two years.
"BIT.TRIP FLUX" takes Commander Video back to his roots, returning him to the same pixel-hitting gameplay that first made him famous in "BIT.TRIP BEAT." As with its predecessor, "FLUX" tasks the player with hitting "beats" (square blocks) as they advance across the screen using the motion-controlled paddle on the right-hand side. If you manage to stay alive and do well, then you will be rewarded with better graphics and an improved audio track, however, if you perform poorly, you'll be relegated to the monochromatic Nether region. While that's exactly the same description as "BEAT," "FLUX" has a few new tricks up its sleeve.
Beat Gets A Makeover
Instead of creating an all-new game for the final entry in the series, Gaijin Games opted to go back to the well and update one of the earlier, and seemingly flawed "BIT.TRIP" titles. "BEAT" was, in no way, a bad game, but the developers just set the difficulty so high that it could easily turnoff today's fair-weather gamer. "FLUX" improves on the "BEAT" formula by fixing its most glaring problems: For example, this time around there's a series of checkpoints throughout the level, instead of sending the player back to the the beginning after failing out each time. The levels themselves also feel fresh with the addition new power-ups and new "enemies"; circular beats that need to be avoided, disappearing beats and beats with tails. Each of the levels also culminates with a new boss, offering their combative take on the unique gameplay of "FLUX."
CO-OP Or NO-OP
"FLUX" isn't the first game in the series to offer multiplayer, (in fact it actually knocks down the number of players from four in "BEAT" to two here) but here it's almost a necessity. In fact, the game's operating instructions go so far as to suggest turning on a second controller if you're having difficulty beating the game. That was great advice for "BEAT," and is still a pretty solid suggestion for "FLUX," except now you need to make sure you avoid all those circular beats with both controllers.
Kick Out The Jams
Always a highlight in the "BIT.TRIP" series, the music in "FLUX" is on par with its predecessors, that is to say it's amazing. The trippy chiptune tracks have become standard for the series, but "FLUX" includes an exclusive track from well-known guest artist Bitshifter, alongside some of the best tracks that the series has seen to date.
BIT.TRIP BEAT II
Each of the previous four "BIT.TRIP" games were unique experiences, taking Commander Video through entirely different games, but "FLUX" breaks from that pattern. This release is essentially a direct sequel to 2009's "BIT.TRIP BEAT," recreating the same "Pong"-inspired gameplay, only adding in a few tricks. The game is a much-improved experience from the first, but anyone that was hoping for something completely new is likely to be let down.
It's Still So Freaking Hard
All of the "BIT.TRIP" games have two things in common; their protagonist, and their crushing difficulty, and "FLUX" is no different. Out of all of the "BIT.TRIP" games, this one is the most forgiving, but it's still not for the feeble. It's quite possible that watching the screen dissolve into another "Reset" could drive even the most perseverant of gamers to the edge of insanity.
As the culmination of the two-year experiment that has been the "BIT.TRIP" series, "FLUX" isn't the best game of the bunch (that honor still goes to "RUNNER"), but it does drastically improve upon the punishing experience that was "BEAT." With a total of six games released in less time than it takes for most titles to reach their alpha state in a "traditional" development cycle, Gaijin Games once again proves why the "BIT.TRIP" series is the absolute best value on Nintendo's shovelware laden WiiWare service. If you've passed on earlier titles in the series, "FLUX" is a great place to start since it offers an abundant amount of checkpoints and resets, but be warned; it's still going to test your resilience as a gamer.