Bit.Trip Fate is a rather interesting game, in the sense that it’s a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, you’ve got a rail-based side-scrolling shooter that reminded me strongly of those arcade games where you’re looking at a plane from above and unleashing a ridiculous amount of firepower towards enemies flying in from the top. On the other hand, it also incorporates certain elements from the previous entry in the series (Bit.Trip Presents: Runner 2, to which I gave a rather glowing review), i.e. the platform-adventure style that has the player focus on sharpening their reaction time to negotiate tricky obstacles and progress further in the level. In the end, however, Bit.Trip Fate really wasn’t able to hold my interest. Here’s why:
This latest release from renowned developer Gaijin Games walks a fine line between the two aesthetics I’ve just mentioned, and I do also mean that literally; your character cannot waver from a thin rail that charts your course through each stage, though the player controls the speed at which the character moves along it. This I found to be at once challenging and unique, but also frustrating and restrictive. I wanted the ability to fly around and dodge enemy firepower more freely, and the effect of being locked to the rail mainly just left me feeling like I’d rather be playing something else.
What I did enjoy, however, was the ability to unleash thousands of yellow light-bullets at the various polygonal enemies that strove to prevent me from beating each level. I enjoyed it – to a degree. I felt a little ashamed for comparing it in my head so frequently with Runner 2, but I repeatedly found myself wishing that the developer had continued to utilize the vibrant graphics of that game, rather than the blocky, pixelated, vintage 8-bit look that Gaijin ended up deciding to use for Fate. In other words, I think it could have benefited significantly from adopting the hi-res textures they’d proven so adept at handling with the previous release, but I can understand if that simply wasn’t the aesthetic they had envisioned for this particular release. To their credit, Fate does play like a pretty good-quality arcade game (like maybe one that would cost fifty cents instead of a mere quarter), although you’ll probably start to tire of holding down the left mouse button to shoot with each passing stage. Nonetheless, most players will enjoy the competitive atmosphere of racking up the highest score, as a leader-board system allows you to compare your skills with other players around the world. I strongly feel that having a nice competitive edge is a crucial component for any good arcade game these days, so kudos to Gaijin for that.
Another ‘score’ that works in favor of the overall game is its soundtrack, which has always been a standout feature for the series. Bleeps and bloops that you create by destroying enemies or grabbing power-ups combine with thuddy electronic bass lines that incorporate themselves into the auditory landscape. I’ve always liked that effect; the precise timing of your movement forms sounds that land right on the beat, and you feel like you’re participating in the creation of the music itself (which you are). In terms of changing the music up, it’s not much to write home about, but they manage to inject a little variety in the different levels. At least, just enough so the tunes don’t feel totally monotonous.
This is a game that has its charming moments, but I felt like I just didn’t have enough meaty gameplay to really sink my teeth into.
It’s a light, 2D arcade shooter that’s great for killing some time if you’re waiting for your wife to get ready, but if you’re looking for immersive gameplay and a deeper level of engagement, or beautiful, eye-catching graphics, you’ll be better off looking somewhere else. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a letdown since I pretty much knew what to expect. In the end, Fate certainly doesn’t portend to be something it isn’t, but I guess it just wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I’d say it merits a try if you’re a fan of the series, which has historically been very popular, and you can find the current digital release on Steam for Mac and PC currently retailing at $9.99.