BIT.TRIP BEAT: A Great Musical Twist on Pong

BIT.TRIP BEAT is an indie game that mixes Pong with interactive beats. Throughout three different levels – or songs – you control a paddle to deflect beats to score points and make sounds.

During the game individual beats are sounded out for every beat you deflect back with your paddle. If you miss too many beats the game ends, but if your reactions are quick enough to accomplish consecutive hits, the beats join into full, complex songs, which is how you build impressive high scores. So you’re not just playing to rack up points – you’re playing to make music.

Design

BIT.TRIP BEAT’s design is simple throughout the game, consisting mainly of bold chunks of colour on a dark background. Every element in the game is built using these pixelated chunks, including the text, and it all adds up to a decidedly retro look and feel.

The main menu

I found the explosions of colours and other animations difficult to take in at times as the game can be so absorbing – and so unforgiving to anyone who doesn’t give it their full attention. However, the different animations that occur during the game make for beautiful eye candy. This game is not just about the music and sounds; it’s also an extremely visual trip. A lot of the pixels that fly past the screen make up simple shapes, just as the individual beats make up tunes.

Controls

In such a simple game, requiring lightning fast reactions, the controls are important. With two options you should find they’re suited for the job. It’s possible to either use your phone’s accelerometer or touchscreen controls to move up and down to deflect beats back.

BIT.TRIP BEAT offers two different control options and difficultly levels

I found the accelerometer annoying to use on my phone (an HTC One S) but this may vary for different devices. Unfortunately, no option for changing the sensitivity is provided. I rarely use the accelerometer for games, though, so this may just be a personal annoyance.

The touchscreen was my control scheme of choice. I like how I could use my thumb on the right of the screen, therefore not blocking my view of the paddle.

Audio

Audio plays a central part to the game, with the gameplay and audio tightly coupled; this is an interesting twist on the classic game of Pong. The music was composed by musician Bit.Shifter, who used sound samples from the Atari 2600 and NES to compose them.

BIT.TRIP BEAT requires you to catch beats that are flying past your screen with a small paddle. The audio of each beat you catch forms together to make electronic songs, and follows the pace of the game: the music is slow to begin with, but speeds up as the pixels become faster and more complex. I found this to be a rewarding concept, and a welcome change to games that motivate only through high scores.

Gameplay

One of the easier moments in the game

As I’ve mentioned, this game offers a fresh take on Pong. Now, I like Pong, but I realise this opinion is not shared by everyone, so if you don’t like that core gameplay, you’re probably not going to enjoy BIT.TRIP BEAT.

That said, I think the game is fun and somewhat addictive, but slightly confusing to begin with. Yes, the game is simple, but when starting the game, its simple design extends to being sparse on details about how to play. I don’t believe this was a case of the developers wanting players to learn as part of the experience. A simple screen outlining each section of the game would have sufficed in my opinion.

A more difficult stage of the game!

As you progress through the game blocks starts behaving differently; these new movements are what make progression through the game more difficult. Initially blocks fly past the screen individually, in a straight line and at a relatively slow speed.

After reaching higher scores the blocks begin to twist through the screen in a wave formation. Sometimes they’ll pause for a few moments, and then suddenly zip past, or even weave past your paddle if, like me, you’re not quick enough!

Conclusion

BIT.TRIP BEAT is a great retro arcade game to play on the move, and really suits the quick few minute game sessions I regularly use my phone for. It’s a great game, with an impressive twist on Pong, and highly polished - very important for such a simple game.

The sound concept for the gameplay and the loud, bold graphics mean the game is definitely worth its low price.


Summary

BIT.TRIP BEAT is an indie games which mixes the classic game of Pong with interactive beats.

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