The DigestVideo

Games Of February 2013: Bit.Trip Runner 2

Oh, the things you can do when the game does all the running for you.

By John Teti • March 19, 2013

It’s Drew Toal’s turn in the second Digest chair as he swoops in—as much as Drew Toal ever swoops—to talk about Bit.Trip Runner 2. For me, Runner 2 was an interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s featured Digest game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Runner 2 has a rather different relationship with the player, treating you as another member of a duet rather than Metal Gear’s on-again, off-again control scheme. Runner 2’s isn’t inherently better, but between these two games, I did find the “duet” approach more invigorating.

Our snack today is Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, which are like Reese’s Pieces with gigantism. They remind me of peanut butter M&M’s, which I don’t care for. Is there anyone out there who prefers peanut butter M&M’s to Reese’s Pieces? If so, speak up in the comments so I can scratch my head in wonder at the impossibility of accounting for taste.

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  • Chum Joely

    We just made a little TV show! Neat!

  • PaganPoet

    I can’t deal with cheap chocolate-peanut butter candies in general. Call me a snob if you must. My problem is that the peanut butter is too…ganachey (that’s a word, right?). Too fluffy, not creamy enough.

    Although you all DID remind me that Godiva will have their almond butter eggs out now since it’s Easter time. Their chocolates are well overpriced and I’m ashamed everytime I go, but those almond butter eggs are the sweet manger in which baby Jesus was laid.

    John: So what’s it like playing with no sound?
    Drew: Well, it’s–
    John: (interrupting) BECAUSE what struck me….

    I lol’d

    • Drew Toal

      “What do you thinHERE’S WHAT I THINK.”

  • HobbesMkii

     Oh, hey, Drew feared for his life if he didn’t wear the Phil Collins shirt. I guess that means he got all my letters!

    Also, props to Teti for name dropping PaRappa.

    • Jackbert

      What is it?

      • Chum Joely

        You are obviously not sufficiently elite. I have only played PaRappa the Rappa once, but it was with my old college pal Bram Cohen, who was I think a couple of months away from inventing BitTorrent.  True story.

        (“Pal” may not be quite the right word. Let’s leave it at “acquaintance”.)

    • PaganPoet

      I was a little concerned about John hyper-ghettoizing PaRappa’s title. He’s a rapper, John, not a “rappa.” That’s not even a thing!

      You…you people are monsters!

      • Jackbert

        ELITIST

        • PaganPoet

          i to an extent actually agree with u

      • Chum Joely

        I edited my misspelled post above so that your little liberal feelings won’t be hurt.

        • PaganPoet

          No, by all means, let the world be exposed to your oppressive prejudice!

  • Citric

    The first Bit.trip Runner was evil. Is this evil? 

    • PaganPoet

      Well, when I loaded up the game, my walls started bleeding, so…make of that what you will.

      • George_Liquor

         GET… OUT!

  • Pandas_please

    Nice little internet T.V. show. I’m glad to see Runner get it’s due. I do agree that they could have messed with people’s spatial senses more, but they are in a precarious sort of position where they want to honor the challenge of the previous games but keep the difficulty manageable and hedge off frustration. Making people rely more on the music and using the visuals to throw them off could tip those scales in the wrong direction for accessibility.

  • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

    Peanut butter M&Ms > Reese’s Pieces.
    To confuse the matter, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups > Peanut butter M&Ms. Furthermore, Reese’s Minis > Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. However, Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups destroys all other faux peanut butter flavored confectionery. No contest.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      Yes! White chocolate Reese cups were the best. It’s a shame you only got two in a pack. 

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Did there use to be a Cookie & Cream Reese’s PB cup? For some reason I remember them, and remember loving them, but that combo sounds too outlandish to have actually existed, and now I’m wondering if I’ve conflated white Reese’s with Hershey’s Cookies & Cream bars in my brain…

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Now I kind of want to make a peanut butter sandwich with Hershey’s Cookies & Cream as the bread.

    • Pandas_please

       You have good tastes.

    • Steve McCoy

      I read the text before watching the video, and I thought they were going to eat the full-sized Reese’s eggs. I have to admit I was very disappointed that they were the Reese’s Pieces eggs. Now, I love those, but the full size eggs TOWER OVER all other forms of Reese’s cups.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    I love peanut butter, but I’m vegan, which means I can’t eat most cheap American chocolate because we put milk in goddamned everything in this country. This typically means no Reese’s or M&Ms of any sort. I vaguely remember preferring the M&Ms when I was a kid, but honestly can’t say I had a strong preference.

    But luckily, I learned (from an AVClub Sweets & Snacks expo recap) about Justin’s, which makes a pretty amazing, if overpriced, dark chocolate peanut butter cups that are kind of AMAZING. Also great: peanut butter Newman-Os and homemade peanut butter buckeyes.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      What made you go vegan? I’m not judging, I am vegetarian myself. But the most delicious things in the world have some form of dairy. I’m sure the dairy cows are happier to have tubes attached to their udders every day and then be disposed of once they are past their usefulness, instead of being fattened up and killed young like the beef cattle. The production of all meats is barbaric, though I particularly feel bad for the chickens. No one respects chickens. It’s either a tiny cage, or an overcrowded shed with a diet of hormones. That’s the life of a chicken. Anyway, i like milkshakes, is the point I was trying to make there.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        A constellation of factors. I lived with two vegan friends for several years, and we cooked a lot together which demystified the diet and made it seem less alien and difficult. Also, between that diet and cycling all over hilly Pittsburgh, I would up feeling healthier than I ever had in my earlier life. I think I generally eat more delicious stuff now than I did when I was an omnivore, simply by virtue of my having to think more about what I eat. College Girard was happy with baloney sandwiches for lunch. Grad school Girard makes a fucking amazing peanut curry.

        I also find I generally have a perverse attraction to uncompromising macho acts of asceticism and privation (Tolstoi, Gandhi, and St. Francis were big influences on me in my early adulthood), so there’s probably an in-born tendency toward this sort of thing.

        As for ethical reasons, I’m a kind of obsessive thinker who likes to tease out complex systems, and the complex interleaving and functioning of the various animal food industries made veganism feel to me like the only internally consistent system, ethically. If my diet was being dictated by my not wanting animals to be hurt or killed, then an egg industry which, for purposes of efficiency, tosses most of its male chicks in a grinder (to say nothing of the battery cages the females who live on are subjected to), or a dairy industry which similarly disposes of most of its male calves (or worse, puts them in veal boxes), were both off of the table, literally and figuratively.

        Which of course isn’t to suggest that I’m thoroughly ethically consistent, or have my shit figured out. Obviously animals are harmed in the harvesting of the plants I eat, sometimes I’ll eat stuff with processed sugar, which has a fair chance of being bleached with animal bones, and, of course, I spend most of my work and leisure time using electronic devices that are the result of unspeakable human rights violations in China and Africa, which kind of nullifies any high ground I might have by giving such a big shit about non-human animals. I’m totally a hypocrite.

        Consequently, I’m in no place to judge folks for what they eat or do or whatever – I think (or hope) pretty much everyone is trying their best to be an okay person, and going about it in a different way. The best I can do is what seems to work for me.

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

          Sugar is bleached with animal bones? Mind blown. I can’t fathom the sequence of events which eventually leads to a sugar producer tasting some of their product and thinking “hmm, needs more crushed puppies”.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @NakedManHoldingAFudgesicle:disqus : The annoying thing is not all refined sugar is bleached with bone char, but food companies typically just buy their sugar from whichever supplier is cheapest (which changes frequently) and are not required to document which supplier was used at any given time. This means that, for instance, a given batch of Oreos may be vegan/vegetarian, and the following batch may (technically) not be, and there is ZERO way to know which is which.
          At which point you either say “This is ridiculous,” throw up your hands and eat some Oreos, or say “This is awful,” and stick to Newman-Os. I tend to oscillate between those two positions.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

          It is pretty much impossible to be a completely “ethical consumer”. All we can do is try to minimize the damage we do.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Yeah, it’s probably the fundamental and endemic of “first world problems.” Sometimes, though, I feel like admitting “It’s just not possible to be an ethical consumer” is just kind of a cop-out or excuse. While other times, I think it’s probably the only way to stay sane, and the only realistic perspective one can have.

        • boardgameguy

          my wife and i face a similar issue.  we have been trying to buy only locally produced foods since they comprise the largest portion of our purchasing.  however, living in Minnesota has made that mighty difficult at times as even our local coop will not always separate between locally grown foods and locally produced foods.  while in some cases it’s easy to know that this “local” salsa cannot have been made with local tomatoes in the middle of winter, but other items can be tougher to determine.  and frankly, it’s not practical for groups to include on their labels sourcing information for each component item.  it feels like a no-win sometimes.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          It’s tough navigating the dark world of food production. As someone who doesn’t eat red meat (especially beef) for religious reasons, I sometimes run into some very weird food dilemmas. Take gelatin, for example. It’s usually made from beef or pig hide, which would make it a big no-no for me, but there are some varieties (especially kosher or halal ones) that are made from fish, which would make it okay for me to consume. Another weird one is cheese. A lot of cheese is made using rennet, but the packaging rarely specifies whether it’s mammalian stomach rennet, or whether the rennet was sourced from plants and/or microbes.

          First-world problems, yo.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @boardgameguy:disqus    Having spent quite a few years employed by Midwestern co-ops, food ethics and food philosophy are a seeming rat king of inseparable and contradictory concerns.   Organics are ostensibly better for the environment, but Muir Glen, Cascadian Farms and the other big organics companies have lousy records on worker’s rights.  And that’s even assuming the organic label has any sort of meaningful certification.
             Local is limited and can be prohibitively expensive, and all-natural is… what?  What does all-natural mean when it’s a frozen dinner laden with sodium?
             It can be demoralizing to try and do right by how you eat with the ground constantly shifting underfoot.
             To ostensibly tie this all back to games, back when I was a lad and before alcohol was my gaming companion of choice, snacking was my method of trying to dissipate my rage over dying in a game.
             I’ve taken a lot of angry bites out of Little Debbie brownies in the aftermath of my guy falling onto a spike trap.   

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @boardgameguy:disqus : Yeah, the whole “local” thing is a responsible ethical choice that I respect and hope to engage with meaningfully someday, but at the moment is just too much trouble for me to tackle (likewise, I totally understand why buying organic is important, but my super-tight budget doesn’t typically allow for that).

          At the moment I just try to console myself with the idea that farming livestock contributes more greenhouses gases to the world than the entire auto industry, and so by opting out of that I can somewhat offset the carbon footprint of the cheap, trucked-in, totally-not-organic avocado I ate last week.

          But that kind of zero-sum karmic accounting isn’t a very mature outlook, and I should probably be more thoughtful about where my food comes from.

      • Citric

        Cows are assholes who deserve everything they get.

        Also, now I kind of want a milkshake.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          At the risk of sounding like Grass Valley Greg, I’ve had some pretty great Tofutti shakes in my day.

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

    I love that the vast majority of the comments here focus on the food and fashion rather than the game itself.

    • Cloks

      Well obviously, yeah.

      Speaking of which, I found John’s commitment to keeping the illusion that these segments are filmed on separate days interesting. His references to “tomorrow” and “yesterday” when these things are presumably filmed back to back helped me the viewer but also made things confusing. For instance, does John Teti really wear one set of clothes three days in a row? Has Drew Toal been loitering in the GameCave for a day and therefore has full knowledge of the previous clip being filmed?
      These are all legitimate questions asked by stupid people.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I heard that Teti can shower no more often than every three days or he turns into a werewolf.

        • PaganPoet

          You also can’t feed him after midnight.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Like most cartoon characters, John Teti has a single outfit, though occasionally he’ll be rendered “off-model” resulting in a subtle variant (like those cheap Mario cartoons that sometimes colored the overalls red and sometimes colored them blue…).

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          I got an awesome unlicensed John Teti car decal at a gas station a few years ago.
             He was wearing a backwards baseball cap and pissing on the XBOX logo.
             I got it because Micro$oft SUXXXXXXX!!!!

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Paging @Effigy_Power:disqus , we have a desperate need for a Digest cartoon, PRONTO.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Also, like most cartoon characters, John Teti has only four digits on each hand.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @Merve2:disqus   Fun Fact:  Originally he had five, but apparently, Mr. Teti ran afoul of the Yakuza some years back.

        • Effigy_Power

          Sorry, I already made some LEGO sketches.

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            How dare you not cater to my whims! I guess a little John Teti peeing on YOU is in order!

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Well, that will teach me to read comment threads from the bottom up.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus While I certainly wouldn’t EVER be party to the vulgar defamation of @JohnTeti:disqus ’s character, it certainly would be a shame were some unscrupulous Photoshopper (someone with even fewer scruples than @Effigy_Power:disqus )  were to have their way with this totally innocent image of Teti filling a water balloon

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          Well, @paraclete_pizza:disqus , that’s just fucking delightful.

        • Electric Dragon

          Well, that will teach me to read comment threads.

  • Samantha Allen

    After 36 comments about Reese’s and veganism, I’ll venture a comment about Runner 2. When you perfect a level, reach the end, jump in the cannon and hit the bonus bullseye: PURE ECSTASY.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Talking about video games on a gaming website? WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?

      • Pandas_please

         There’s a time for everything, I guess.

        • HobbesMkii

          This is not the place for it. The correct place for that would be on the Food Channel’s website, or possibly AllRecipe.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      Teti’s words: “ Is there anyone out there who prefers peanut butter M&M’s to Reese’s Pieces? If so, speak up in the comments so I can scratch my head in wonder at the impossibility of accounting for taste.”

      It’s not our fault we obey Teti’s orders without question.

  • Roswulf

     I am always fascinated by discussions of reaching these zen-like states through the rhythm of physical actions, be it in the form of Bit.Trip Runner or even an actual runner’s high. I have never experienced anything like it, no moment when the barrier between my conscious self and my actions in the physical or electronic world melts away. I am always intensely aware of the effort, the stimuli prompting my reactions, and the pushing of the button.

    This may be why I suck at basically all games (well, at least the ones with time limits), and therefore aggresively avoid multiplayer (if it’s cooperative, I’ll be letting someone down, if it isn’t, I will lose ignominiously). I guess that the message is that Teti and the rest of you whippersnappers should appreciate your magical flowing abilities, with your Super Hexagons and such likes.

  • uselessyss

    It’s interesting that Teti thinks Bit.Trip provides more player input, or at least the actions are more closely tied to the player. I mean, essentially the Runner games consist of the player hitting very specific buttons in a specific order to a specific rhythm. You could argue that it’s one big quick-time event, except instead of explicit button prompts (“press X”) there’s a layer of context between the button-pressing and what you see on-screen (“I see a gap, that means I have to jump now”). I wonder what makes the latter so much more satisfying than the former?

    I mean, every person who gets 100% on a level of Runner hit the same buttons at the same time as every other person who got 100%. There’s absolutely no degree of player expression, whereas in Revengeance the non-QTE portions do at least provide the player different options to tackle the same enemy encounters.

    • Steve McCoy

      I agree that it’s strange, although in general this style of “running game” isn’t something I enjoy a whole lot. I think what sets the Bit.Trips apart from is that it’s basically a rhythm game, and getting into the rhythm of music is almost always enjoyable, while a randomly-generated infinite runner rarely feels any different from a long-form QTE to me, even without button prompts.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Thanks for this thought-provoking comment. Your point about the potential for expression in Revengeance is well taken, and it certainly made me reconsider what I was trying to get at. My concern is that the action in Revengeance tends to build to a moment when Raiden runs on auto-pilot—the game will even force a boss’s energy meter to hover at 0.1 percent to ensure that you don’t kill the beast before the “press X NOW” sequence takes place. Thus, at the most climactic moments, you’re not required to exert any substantial degree of skill.

      While I certainly appreciate the expressive moments of the “standard” fighting—and I’m glad you called attention to those moments, because they shouldn’t get short shrift—I still am left with the overall vibe that I, the player, am not allowed to have nice things. I can’t handle the truth, it seems. Thus my role ends up feeling more like “participant” than “player.” That lack of dignity sticks with me. Conversely, with Runner 2, I have the sensation of creating a musical performance in concert with the game, for reasons that I discussed in the video. 

      It’s a bit of a side point, but this is not true: “I mean, every person who gets 100% on a level of Runner hit the same buttons at the same time as every other person who got 100%.” The game is clever about including little avenues for expression if you look for them, whether it’s obvious things like dancing and choosing your route at forks in the road, or more subtle choices like making a different pattern of jumps for a given sequence. (There’s often more than one way to skin a cat.)

      You could, by the same token, say that every person who plays the Moonlight Sonata hits the same keys at the same time as every other person. Now, I’d argue that Beethoven offers more room for meaningful interpretation, but the point is that by my lights, Runner 2 is constructed with a musical conception of a “player.”

      I wouldn’t say that Runner provides “more player input” than Revengeance does, because I’m making a qualitative argument, and not a quantitative one. I don’t view “more input” as an inherently good or bad thing—my perception of my role depends on the specific context and creative milieu of a given game. That might seem like a dodge, but it’s the truth. I’ve got to consider the whole enchilada, and I found Revengeance’s enchilada less inspiring than Runner 2′s—sombreros or no.

      • uselessyss

        Huh, I never thought of it that way. I suppose Runner does cast the player in the role of “performer” rather than “creator.”

        I guess I always considered Runner more of a platformer in my head, in which case it could be considered an especially restrictive (“restrained” might be a better word) example of the genre. It does make more sense to think of it as a rhythm game in the guise of a 2D jump-and-run.

      • Steve McCoy

        Interesting that you think of the QTEs as the climax. To me, the finishing QTE as done in MGR is a form of falling action or denouement, with the “actual” boss fight acting as a climax. They’re a way to release all of the tension of the fight — especially the majority that just let you go wild in blade mode.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Good point!

    • Juan_Carlo

      The Bit Trip Runner series’ popularity never ceases to boggle my mind.  I think they are the worst games out there right now.  Just completely mindless, timed, button pressing. And I don’t think they work as rhythm games either as once you finally get into a rhythm, if you mess up you start the level over and the “song” itself resets, breaking the rhythm.

  • Horatio_Scornblower

    Peanut butter M&M’s are delicious, you bastards!