Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Apart from having an absurdly long name, Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (or Runner2) also features Charles Martinet.

Martinet is the voice of Mario and a number of other Nintendo characters, and he's one of the best voice actors in the business (even if he does have the most ancient-looking of websites).

Martinet introduces Runner2 and each of its bizarre levels in a rousing '70s TV superhero show style, which, along with the game's charming pixel-art visuals, goes to create a creative, playful, and friendly aesthetic.

But don't be fooled - the relentless hardcore rhythm-action gameplay isn't very friendly.

I thought Mingrawn Timbletot would be a Hobbit

The star of the last game - Commander Video - has fallen foul of a dastardly plot by mechanical meanie Mingrawn Timbletot, and to get himself and his pals out of trouble he must work his way through level after level of auto-running rhythm action.

You'll need to jump, glide, kick, slide kick, vault, bounce, block, hang, grind, and perform many other actions I don't have the space list. Each of these moves is associated with a button, and each action requires precise timing to be performed successfully.

Here's a simple sequence: you jump over an enemy with Cross, slide under a box with Down, then quickly press Square to kick your way through an obstacle.

Sounds easy enough, and that example surely is, but the game quickly ramps up the number of actions it asks you to perform in a row, with just one mistake forcing you back to the last checkpoint.

You run forward automatically, which ensures the pressure on you remains constant, and Commander Video (or whichever character you choose to play as) scampers along at a fair old pace.

Within minutes of starting Runner2, the simple but distinct designs of the robotic obstructions and architecture melt away and become visual abstractions of the inputs required to survive.

After half an hour you're no longer perceiving the action in terms of leaping off round pressure pads and then whirling around loop-de-loops. Instead, you're thinking: floor circle = Up, square loop = Circle, Triangle, Square, Cross.

Missing the target

That's a major part of the appeal of Runner2: training your noggin to think in abstractions so that you can improve your ability to rapidly process information. It's a hard trick to pull off, but the game treats you fairly for the most part.

The polygonal 3D flows smoothly and button inputs are responsive, but occasionally the camera can't quite keep up with the action, resulting in you having less time to see what's approaching than you probably should.

The bonus mini-game, in which you fire your character from a cannon to hit a target, is unnecessary, difficult to judge, and an odd inclusion all round.

But these quibbles aside, Runner2 is built for testing yourself and competing with others. Online leaderboards sort the men and women from the boys and girls, and costumes, alternative exits, and bonus stages are reserved for the best players.

Its difficulty will immediately dissuade many from persisting, but if you can get into the frame of mind required to enjoy Runner2's chiptune soundtrack-backed auto-running, you'll begin to improve and then actively enjoy this celebration of the extremely difficult.

Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Runner2 is a brilliant sequel and every bit as system-throwingly punishing as the original. Spot-on controls, online leaderboards, and plenty of content seal the deal