Do you remember 2010? Of course you don’t. We were all smoking the funny grass and spreading the word of free love back then. Fortunately, the good people at Gaijin Games managed to sober up and port one of their 2010 BIT.TRIP games to Steam. I’m talking BIT.TRIP Fate (as if you didn’t read the title).
If you’re not familiar with the BIT.TRIP series, then c’mon, seriously- grow up. Without trying to sound like I know everything, I can confidently tell you that the series is about rhythmic action in a retro skin. The recurring protagonist of the games, Commander Video takes the starring role in Fate.
Fate was originally a WiiWare title (hence that whole “2010 year” I keep raving about). But now that it’s on PC the game has all new keyboard and mouse controls (it can also be played with a controller). Gameplay is fairly simple. Press A and D to move forward and backwards, click the mouse to shoot. When you aren’t shooting, you can move much faster. However given the amount of stuff flying at you on screen most of the time, you won’t live long without shooting often.
Oh and one more thing: you’re locked to a preset path. A rail, if you will. Levels are constantly scrolling to the left and you are free to move along the rail, but you can only go where Gaijin says you can go. This plays well into the design, in that your preset pathways can infuriate you.
See, in many ways, BIT.TRIP Fate is just like a traditional arcade shooter. Deadly stuff is constantly flying at you, you can upgrade your weapons, etc. The big difference here is the preset path you can move on. I cursed a lot while playing Fate. Early on, I forced myself to lift weights every time I died in the game. I was showing early signs of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lucky for the ladies, I got better at the game and died much less.
The on-rails gameplay works pretty well from a design standpoint. It forces you to really think about your next move (left or right). But when you die (for me, this usually happened during the end of a level at a boss fight), you start all the way over. There’s no checkpoints here. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could move at your own pace and speed through the level. But you’re moving at the game’s pace. So dying late into a level is costly of your time (if you believe in that male-constructed idea of time, anyway!).
Like BIT.TRIP Runner, you can collect plus symbols (for lack of a better word) to upgrade your status. The more you collect, the better your shooting capabilities become. Hyper status will give you two rows of relatively weak “bullets” while Giga status grants you several rows of powerful, fast bullets and some snazzy effects to go along with it.
Your status also affects your special weapons as well. Placed along the rails throughout each level is the special weapons item. The item cycles through every special in the game, allowing you to choose which special you’d like to wag at your enemy. Each timed special has its own advantages, but I was particularly fond of the Commander Video special, which sprayed shots everywhere you could think of, when in Giga mode.
If you’ve ever played any of the BIT.TRIP games then you’d know they can get harder than your father’s… favorite crossword puzzle. Fate is not different in this regard. I probably died more times during the second-level boss than I did during the entire game. Like I said, I cursed often. But I was always drawn back, despite knowing just how long it would take to get back to that spot I was getting mutilated at. Because as tough as it was, you can learn from your mistakes. I mean, look at me: I beat the game.
With that in mind, let me talk about the game’s length. It’s fairly short but it’s got a lot of girth. There’s only six levels but each level is pretty lengthy. And depending out how good you are, the challenge involved might keep you playing for a while. That said, I was able to beat the game after a few hours and several weight-lifting reps. So at $10, it might not be long enough for you. But now that the game is on Steam, a good sale isn’t hard to find (it’s $5 as of the time of writing- aren’t you glad you live in the now?).
I found Fate to be a genuinely fun game with a lot of challenge. I liked it more than BEAT and less than Runner. The tunes are catchy as ever and the gameplay is solid. I strongly recommend it if you’re looking for a
mean nice challenge with a familiar face.