One thing I like about old-school video games is how demanding they are. Now, to me that doesn’t mean the same thing as “hard,” although many of them are also that. Old-school games, especially platformers, can be unforgiving, requiring pixel-perfect timing and execution. But there’s something about that level of intensity that appeals to me. The fact that these games demand so much of my attention means that I can actually focus in on the task at hand, instead of my mind flitting every which way as it usually does. These games demand much, but the return is worth it.
Why do I bring this up? Well, at the risk of sounding like a crotchety old gamer, they don’t make many games like they used to any more. Save points, quick reloads, and generally less challenging level design have seemed to take over most of the medium. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why: I definitely don’t have the free time to dedicate to mastering a game like I did when I was younger. But part of me still yearns for that challenge.
Luckily, I’ve been playing BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
Yes, I know that’s a mouthful of a title, but bear with me. Runner 2 is a platformer, but with a strong rhythm component. Your character automatically moves from left to right, and it’s your job to jump, duck, kick, and otherwise dodge obstacles while collecting as many piles of gold as you can. It requires precision timing, as one wrong move will send you plummeting back to the start of the level.
This may not sound very complicated, but it does a good job of scratching that “old-school demanding” itch of mine. When you fail (and you will fail), the game lets you quickly try again, and the obstacles are in the same location every time. So as time goes on you will inevitably improve, if through nothing else than rote memorization and muscle memory. I’ve been playing it on my laptop with an Xbox 360 controller, and while the d-pad still sucks, it feels true to the experience in a way that using a keyboard probably wouldn’t.
Runner 2 isn’t completely without issues for me, however. It doesn’t seem to like my computer much, and after a level or two I’ll start to experience horrendous lag spikes. On a platformer that relies on such precision timing, this is more than a minor inconvenience. Luckily the problem is fixed by restarting the game (or just alt-tabbing back and forth), but it’s annoying to be reminded that my computer is getting up in years.
The other issue I have is more personal: because it takes so much concentration, I can only play Runner 2 for so long before my reflexes start betraying me. When I start mis-timing jumps repeatedly, or ducking when I’m supposed to kick, I know that it’s time to take a break. After this next level, of course…
So if you’re looking for an old-school fix and aren’t too rhythmically inept, I can heartily recommend Runner 2. It’s available on most platforms, although I may have an extra PC copy floating around if you’d like to try it out.