Review: Bit.Trip Rerunner is a great example of what a good remake looks like

Remakes are something I’ve a tendency to think about a lot. The way they’re positioned in videogames as a means to overwrite existing works by making them the only version you can legally obtain or how they’re sometimes positioned, whether intentionally or not, as one more step toward making “the perfect, realized version” of a game is frustrating to say the least. Videogames are a medium that doesn’t appreciate or care about its history and that frankly sucks. That’s not to say remakes are bad and without value. But it is frustrating to see them regularly be held up as the way to play something, forgetting the value of the original work in favor of the new shiny version.

Bit.Trip Rerunner is a surprise then, as it’s a remake that feels more like a celebration of the original than an attempt to overwrite it. Bit.Trip Rerunner is an auto-scrolling platformer with a touch of rhythm at play. Every jump, slide, kick, and pile of gold collected play notes that add to the underlying music. It’s a more musical take on the genre, which is part and parcel with the larger Bit.Trip series. It was defined by how diverse each game was, always doing something wildly different from the last, but always keeping that musical element intact.

Bit.Trip Rerunner isn’t a simple one-to-one remake, however. Apart from the new art, it adds new moves and changes the level design to accommodate the new abilities, making it akin to a remix. I didn’t realize the level design had changed at first because it still feels similar to the original. I expected the game to just be a new coat of paint on the original game. But as soon as it introduced dancing as a move you could do (something you can do whenever for additional points), I realized this wasn’t just a simple remake, but something more.

It was a welcome surprise.

Bit.Trip Rerunner screenshot

Remakes are at their best when they’re more than a visual update. Bit.Trip Rerunner, in adding new moves, effectively makes it a brand new game. It’s still very much Bit.Trip Runner — and the original levels are still here as well, just with the new visuals — but more. It’s like how Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin is still Dark Souls 2, fundamentally, but also something new and unique because of the ways it’s changed and altered the existing game.

In Rerunner’s case, the new moves make playing through Bit.Trip Runner feel fresh and exciting again while still retaining the feel of the original. Runner 2 and 3 were ultimately still more of this, granted, but they also felt inherently different because of the change in art style and the additional mechanics they added. They were sequels that kept building on the foundation of Bit.Trip Runner, games that were distinctly unique from the first game.

Rerunner, conversely, is exploring ideas that were originally scrapped. Some of the new abilities, such as the “absorb,” where CommanderVideo creates a field around him that grows bigger with each black beat you collect (the core mechanic behind Bit.Trip Void), was going to be a part of the original game at first, according to design documents in the extras. It makes Rerunner interesting in how it’s effectively a look at what the original might have been had they not cut some of those ideas.

In revisiting those ideas, and including the original levels too, it allows them to act in conversation. What does Bit.Trip Runner look like when the studio revisits it 13 years later? How does it compare to the original? Rerunner effectively does what any remake should: allow you to play the two versions and see how they differ. Granted, playing the original game’s levels with the new art isn’t quite the same experience as playing the actual original game (it is still readily available on Steam, thankfully), but it’s more than I would expect from most modern remakes.

Bit.Trip Rerunner screenshot

There’s also the addition of checkpoints and the option to set the difficulty by altering the density of obstacles in the level, which does a lot to make a difficult game much more approachable. Always a plus.

Bit.Trip Rerunner also has a level editor included, which was apparently the impetus for this game’s creation. I haven’t messed with the level editor much myself (don’t have the creative muscles needed to build levels), but the ones I’ve played have been fantastic. The game already has a ton of levels to play already, but having access to a near limitless supply now is an appealing prospect.

But even without that, Bit.Trip Rerunner is just a fantastic version of an already great game. The new levels are a joy to play, the new moves a fun addition that fit in naturally. The new art feels like a good balance between the original style and the art they would eventually use for the two sequels. And the inclusion of the original game cannot be overstated as a net good. When so many remakes try to position themselves as replacements to the original works, anything that keeps the original intact or included in some way is welcome sight.

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