Wednesday, September 28, 2011

sensory overload: the game

Developer: Gaijin Games
Price: $9.99 (PC, Steam)


Your brain has a limited capacity for interpreting sensory phenomena. In fact, one of your brain’s primary functions is to actively kill signals so that you can interpret other signals more effectively. Without it, you’d basically be a perpetually frustrated, annoyed, itchy, incoherent, grumpy, oblivious misanthrope all the time.
BIT. TRIP.RUNNER is a misanthropisation device.

It won’t make you feel like that right away, but it gets to you. The thing about BTR is that It slowly wears away at your willingness to resist your brain’s attempts to filter the information. The psychedelic colors, the 2D plane on a 3D background, the little black cucumber man’s deathly allergy to negative acceleration. All of these things are easily understood, grasped at the first moment. Though as they layer on top of each other over and over and over again, so too do they pile weight upon burdensome weight upon your tired, taxed brain. This game makes me feel as though I’ve been looking at a pile of vomit designed by Nicki Minaj, and for far too long.
And you will suffer this, of course, all in the name of points. Points for god knows what, who knows (god knows, what). At first, that is. Like every good limit-pushing exercise, to succeed in BTR is to appreciate it. There is eventually a moment through the course of your psychedelic coursing that images literally begin to fade into and out of focus randomly. Perhaps it’s what it feels like to have an epileptic seizure while being fully aware of having an epileptic seizure; to chase that halo all the way to its bittersweet destination.
At this moment, you transcend. You transcend the bounds of the black cucumber man, the psychedelic colors, and the diabolical superpositioning of multiple 3D images. You transcend into the space where time is measured in beats and gold bars, in springs and rainbow powerups. You transcend into the space where notes have a flavor and colors have a smell, where sights have a texture and your curses lazily crawl out your throat and expire at the edge of your lower lip. You are tripping the beat.