After the fifth time dying at the boss in Bit.Trip Fate on just the second stage, I was left wondering if I was doing something wrong. After all, I breezed through the first level with no worries at all. The series is known for having a challenge attributed to retro games, but would at least ramp up the difficulty at a steady pace. This game is arduous from the opening stages, and sets a tone as what to expect Commander Video's latest foray.
Bit.Trip Fate is reminiscence of old-school side-scrolling shooters, except that series star Commander Video is confined to a predetermined path. You control Video with your left stick (I played with a PC 360 controller), allowing you to move back and forth on the path, though you can't move off of the line, and shoot with the right stick through six different levels. The first two levels take the Commander through a space-like backdrop that helps set the gameplay and setting of Fate. The first level, Determination, is a stroll through the park that starts the hate-filled story portrayed throughout Fate.
After Determination, you play arguably the hardest stage in the game, titled Patience. Each stage takes around ten minutes to complete before you hit the boss section. If Commander Video dies during the boss you have to play the entire level again. Other Bit.Trip games include a checkpoint system, but not having one here is infuriating in spots. I died several times at the boss and was forced to play the entire level again, which became more of a chore than enjoying the experience.
Commander Video only has one weakness, which is his heart. Bullets fly from all directions and will pass over Video's body, but you only lose health if you're hit in the heart. You start out shooting a couple bullets at a time but you gain power-ups from fallen enemies that build your special meter. This ups your bullet count, allowing you to be much more powerful. If you get hit you lose power-ups and get reduced to simply one bullet before death; the level turns grey and you know death is approaching. You also are joined by Video's friends in spots, including Meat Boy who changes your bullets into a thick laser.
Another small problem I had with Fate was how they handle enemy death. Past Bit.Trip games were all based on rhythm, and this game is more lenient with that aspect. Except that enemy death is based off the rhythm of the music. You don't get any sort of feedback when you are making contact with an enemy. It's a minor qualm but bothered me during more of the hectic spots it threw at me.
Bit.Trip Fate is a beautiful 2-D side-scrolling shoot-em-up with a strong dubstep soundtrack. But it's the weakest entry in the series. Skilled players may not have the same experience as I did, but having to replay the entire level over again multiple times was not enjoyable, especially when levels are long with no checkpoints. It's also short, spanning a mere six levels, but encourages you to go after the high score. I liked the game, but Commander Video has seen better experiences.