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BIT.TRIP FLUX

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Gaijin Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Rhythm


Graphics & Sound:

It's hard to look at BIT.TRIP FLUX without taking a look at the series' history. The first game, BIT.TRIP BEAT married the concept of Pong with the rhythm elements of Rez. Big pixels, called Beats, would fly across the screen. Your job was to bounce them back with a paddle. Hitting multiple Beats in a row awarded points as well as altering the music and visuals. Missing Beats, on the other hand, would degrade the presentation into a colorless, nearly silent landscape.

FLUX hangs on to the same presentation. Everything has a decidedly 8-bit feel to it at first, though as you climb through the point rankings, you'll slowly begin to peel back new layers of color and audio enhancements. True to the series' title, it's a bit of a trip. What begins with a few colors splashed on screen will quickly become a visual display worthy of a late-night Pink Floyd laser show. Okay, so it isn't THAT tripped out, but it's incredibly cool and serves as great motivation. If anything else, you'll want to do well to avoid hearing music from the controller's internal speaker.


Gameplay:

Although subsequent games offered completely different experiences, BIT.TRIP FLUX takes the series back to basics. In a sense, FLUX is a remix of BEAT. Both use the same core gameplay, though FLUX adds new Beat patterns, a few new power-ups and flips the paddle to the right side of the screen. That last one may not sound like a major change, but it messes with orientation just a bit. Call it a downside of our "left-right" oriented society.

The "Back to Basics" design makes FLUX ideal for first time players. I wouldn't call it easy, but the simple concept will easily hook players into losing a few minutes (which can roll into hours) playing. However, the lack of major changes may deter veterans who've been conditioned to expect major revisions. For that group, all I can say is give FLUX a try.

The one area where BEAT has FLUX... err, beat is the lack of four-player multiplayer. Four-player co-op has been dropped in favor of a two-player variant. Even minus two players, it's a blast and I imagine the change has something to do with screen crowding.


Difficulty:

BIT.TRIP FLUX is a hard game. It doesn't take long for things to ramp up and rarely taps the breaks to give you a breather. This is actually part of FLUX's charm. It's easy to get frustrated the first few times you're dropped into the monochromatic wastes, though it never feels like you're being unfairly punished. There's always something you could have done differently. Like most arcade-styled games, you'll eventually learn patterns and well, learning is where the fun comes from.

FLUX does, however, toss a few bones your way. Checkpoints are scattered throughout each sequence. If you fail, you'll drop back to that point rather than head to the beginning. Checkpoints make FLUX easier, though it's not uncommon to get stuck in an area. They're also only good for as long as you're playing. Once you turn the game off, you need to restart from the beginning on your next play.


Game Mechanics:

It's hard to describe BIT.TRIP FLUX's mechanics in any more depth. Beats fly in from the left and you need to reflect them back. Beats come at you in set patterns; some come in straight lines while others ricochet around the screen. They're easy to follow alone, though most of the time you'll see them in packs. Eventually Beats will adjust their speed, playing havoc with your perception of patterns.

Just to keep you on your toes, FLUX introduces Beats you need to avoid. This is FLUX's biggest contribution to the series' design. It's hard enough trying to hit everything back, but once you have to start noting which ones to hit and which to avoid, it pushes gameplay to a completely different level.

Unless you're adverse to high-level challenge, it's hard to not recommend BIT.TRIP FLUX. It's a simple concept, but manages to squeeze a lot out of what it has to offer.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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