Bit.Trip Beat: An Inside Type of Look

8-bitBen.jpgAs many of the readers probably know, and others most certainly won’t, I am a retro gamer. This is not due to any sophisticated reasoning such as, I collect old game systems and have ventured to become an expert on the development and evolution of strategy games, or, that I generally enjoy the beep-boop noises the old games make. I do tend to like the beep-boop sounds, but the origins of my retro gaming affinity happens to come out of the fact that since my original Atari 7800 circa 1986, the Nintendo Wii is the only game system I have owned. I still have my Atari, in good working order with a good handful of games, and from time to time I like to dust it off, plug it in and play some of those great old strategy games. Sadly though, there doesn’t seem to be anything out there now that rivals a good old retro strategy game made up of lines and dots and increasingly challenging levels that eventually drive you mad with the compelling desire to get that perfect score. That is, there has been nothing like that until now.

Bit.Trip Beat is a rhythm based strategy game designed to look and play like the types of games you could expect out of my old Atari. As so…


This all looks overly simple at first glance, but as Alex Neuse, CEO & Designer at Gaijin Games assures, “the game has meaning behind the simplicity.”

Created by Gaijin and debuting early this year Bit.Trip Beat is the first of a series of games that introduces gamers to the mysterious CommanderVideo. The series is planned to last six games, but there is no certainty to how long the series will go. The first release, ‘Beat’ took the Neuse and his team nearly four months to make. As Neuse explains, “BEAT is the beginning of it all--the beginning of life as we know it. Whether it’s the beginning of life as CommanderVideo knows it, though, is still a mystery.” If the picture reminds you of “Pong”, it is supposed to. Neuse says that he and the gamers at Gaijin were inspired by the classic paddle games. He says, “Just as a heartbeat is the first step toward human life, Pong was the first step toward video game life. Since we’re telling the story of CommanderVideo’s life through a series of games, we felt it appropriate to use Pong as inspiration.”

As far as the seemingly simple graphics, controls and game-play are concerned, like all the classic games, the simple origins promise to develop to become challenging and addicting.With music as a major aspect of the game Neuse insists the game quickly challenges the player with “All the action taking place to the beat of the music and the story told through the imagery constantly bombarding the player as they go.”Is this the answer to my yearning for a new old strategy game? Alex Neuse seems to think so. Arvin got his Megaman 9 and it looks like Ben is going to get his Bit.Trip.


I got the chance to ask Neuse a few questions about Bit.Trip Beat, and was lucky enough to have him spend the time to answer them. He actually put a lot of thought and humour in the answers, and at one point he was even poignant. No small feat when one has a game launching imminently.

What was your goal in making this game?

Our primary goal in making this game was to make something that was fun, pure and simple.

However, we also have some secondary goals. We wanted to make something that felt unique. We didn’t want to be just another (insert popular game title here) clone. We also wanted the game to have meaning behind the simplicity. And finally, we wanted to remind people that sometimes a relatively simple experience can be very enjoyable.

What other games have your team worked on?

BIT.TRIP BEAT is the first 100% Gaijin Games game that the team has worked together on. It is our studio's maiden voyage, if you will. The other Gaijin team members and I have worked on numerous projects together in the past, however. Most recently, while we were at Santa Cruz Games, we worked on Tomb Raider Underworld for the Nintendo DS.

Why did you choose to use a retro styling?

For years, I’ve wanted to make a game that felt WAY retro. I had been working up to a design in my head for a game that took “retro” beyond the NES era and back to the beginning. It wasn’t until Chris Osborn, our Engineer, and I were talking about our mutual love for chiptune music that the design finally clicked. Music was what my ideas were missing. I knew at that moment what I wanted BIT.TRIP to be. The inspiration came from the gameplay, art, and music of the 2600 era and the concept was born.

Since the gameplay in BIT.TRIP BEAT is based off of what we consider to be the ultimate classic game, we felt very strongly about complimenting that gameplay with art and music that’s based off of classic games as well.

Classic games played with today’s hands, though, sometimes aren’t as fun as we remember them. So our goal became to use the tools of today as a means to capture the feelings of yesterday. This led us to the chiptune-inspired soundtrack and classic-inspired gameplay and graphics that expand on the idea of retro.


Why did you choose the Wii as the platform for your game?

We chose the Wii for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m a huge Nintendo fanboy. But making company direction decisions based solely on maniacal fanaticism didn’t seem right, so we started looking for other reasons.

The controls were a HUGE factor that led to BIT.TRIP being a Wii title. Paddle games (like Pong, Breakout, Arkanoid, etc) simply do not play well with a D-Pad or Analog Stick. We needed something with that spinner-controller feel. And we found this in the Wii Remote.

Also, the development team had just come off of a DS project and we felt confident in the Nintendo pipeline. Of course there are differences between the Wii and DS, but there was a little “comfort zone” motivation that came into play as well.

The two pieces of the equation that sealed the deal though were the massive install base of the console, and the competitive royalty scheme which works very well for the way our company is structured.
Everything just seemed to be pointing to the Wii, so the decision just seemed to come to us.

What will the controls be like?

The controls are very simple and quite intuitive. The Wii Remote is held horizontally like a classic NES controller and the player rocks it forward and backward to move the paddle up and down to repel the beats.

The controls take about 3 – 5 minutes to get used to, but as the player continues to play, it feels completely natural.

Oh, and if you’re one of those folks who prefers up to be down and down to be up, simply hold the controller with the +Control Pad on the right.


What are the features you are most excited about?

Quite frankly, I’m most excited about playing a game that’s like Pong. I love paddle games so much, and good ones rarely come out anymore. I’d love to start a Save the Spinner Controller movement or something.

Other than being excited about the core mechanic, I really like the multiplayer aspect. It’s wholly cooperative, and at times can be even more challenging than single player. I’m very pleased with how it came out.

What is your favorite old game?

Super Metroid (if you consider that old)
Stampede (if you're looking for older)

How much is the game going to cost?

We haven’t announced a final price yet, but it will cost less than 1,000 Wii Points.


Do you have any plans to make games for the Wii in the future?

The entire BIT.TRIP series will be made for the Wii, so there are a few more titles in the same vein that you can look forward to. And they won’t all be paddle based.

After that, we’re not sure where our plans will take us, but I expect that we will continue to have a relationship with the console.

Is there anything else you would like our viewers to know?

I’d like to leave your viewers with this sentiment. Remember to have fun.
We have had a lot of fun making this game and we are making it for you just as much as we are making it for ourselves. As you play it, forget your daily frustrations, sit back, get in the zone, and simply enjoy...

Now after all that, you still may be asking yourself, who is CommanderVideo? Cryptically yet some how frankly he states, “I am only a man.” What that means and how his story is tied into the “Pong” and “Breakout”–esque game is yet to be discovered. But his mission, according to him at least, is clear. “What is anyone’s mission? To live. What does one achieve by living? Life. Is life all there is? I don’t believe so. I will find out”, he says. The only way to figure it all out seems to be by playing the games and joining CommanderVideo’s mission. After spending some time with the Commander and asking him some questions too, he showed he has an interesting perspective he wants to share with gamers.

Where are you from?<?strong>

I am from the same place you are from. I am from The Ether.

How can others help you?

By observing and... taking it all in. Slow down. Slower.

Why all the secrecy surrounding your mission?

Secrecy is clarity from a different point of view. I am new to life and have yet to learn new points of view.

When will the mission begin?

It has already begun.


bleu's picture
on February 27, 2009 - 10:09am

whoa. cool.

EDIT: omg i didnt know this was Ben's review! nice job! I thought it sounded pretty professional.

Ben's picture
on March 3, 2009 - 1:51pm


spiderpig24's picture
on March 6, 2009 - 6:06pm

I can't wait for these games to come out, they will definately be the best games on Wiiware. Great job on the interview Ben.

Your 8-BitBen is awesome BTW.

spiderpig24's picture
on March 16, 2009 - 5:33pm

I just got this game today and it's AMAZING! The controls do make it a challenging game though.

Steve's picture
on March 17, 2009 - 8:06pm

would it cause headaches? looks like it would if it's fast moving