I've been super slow about playing through the Bit.Trip series. I'd had mixed feelings when playing Bit.Trip Runner, but I'd played a little of Bit.Trip Beat in co-op mode not too long ago and was reminded that I needed to get back into it.
Although the game debuted on WiiWare, Wii's downloadable service, Bit.Trip Beat is way more enjoyable in its appearances on subsequent compilations. As before, I played it on the Wii compilation, which adds additional difficulty modes (easy and hard) for every game, as well as challenges and unlockable art, etc. The games were designed to be quite difficult, and even the easy modes aren't a total pushover.
If you're not already aware, Bit.Trip Beat is often described as a combination of Pong and a rhythm game, but as with Bit.Trip Runner the musical aspect of the game is more a feature that will help you with the gameplay, rather than something you have to be really conscious of. Beats come in the form of bits that travel from right to left, and you control your paddle on the left by holding the Wii Remote horizontally and rotating it on its long axis. The control scheme works extremely well and is a large part of what makes the game so enjoyable, and the Wiimote is sensitive enough to keep up with the game even when things get hectic.
The game starts off with you having to keep track of just one bit at a time, but pretty soon you'll be fending off waves of bits, many moving in unique patterns. Some of the bits' patterns seem a little unfairly complex. This and the game's high difficulty wouldn't be an issue, if the stages themselves weren't so long. Each stage is about fifteen minutes long, and it's incredibly frustrating to have to play through the majority of the stage over and over again only to get tripped up by something near the end of the stage. In fact, in this retrospective feature at NintendoLife the developers even admit that they "wish that we’d come up with some sort of checkpoint system".
The game's retro visuals and chiptune soundtrack go perfect together, although as with Runner, when things get busy on screen the background can get really distracting. The way Beat progresses is also pretty satisfying. Instead of having a set number of misses, you have two meters. One keeps track of the beats you hit, and one keeps track of your misses. If your hit meter fills up you go into "Mega" mode, where a multiplier increases your score. If your miss meter fills up you go into "Nether" mode, in which your two meters are reset and if your misses outnumber your hits then you get a game over. It's a little annoying that when you're in Mega mode your misses meter doesn't reset every time you fill up the hits meter, but otherwise it's a nice mechanic and a good way to reward good players with a multiplier while not overly punishing for mistakes, i.e. not requiring perfection.
Boss fights are underwhelming, but I suppose it's just as well that they're easy since the stages themselves are so difficult. The main complaint of the game at the time was that there are only three levels, but with three difficulty levels and several follow-up games with similar mechanics it's less of an issue nowadays. I enjoyed playing this game and the core idea is pretty brilliant. The levels feel too long and get a bit repetitive which prevents me giving the game top marks, but it was a gem on WiiWare for good reason and it still holds up today.