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Retro Challenges (originally called BONUS!) are a recurring mechanic in the Runner subseries. When certain criteria are met in a level, the player gains access to a Retro Challenge, which take the form of very difficult stages that use a retro aesthetic. The criteria and visual style are different in each game in which they're accessed.

Accessing[]

BIT.TRIP Runner[]

In the original BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Retro Challenges could only be attempted by successfully netting a perfect score in any of the game's non-boss levels and crossing the Finish Line. There is one unique Retro Stage that corresponds to every regular Stage in the game, barring boss fights. The player must complete the base Stage perfectly every time they wish to attempt the Retro Stage.

Runner2[]

In the sequel, accessing the stages is slightly more obtuse, however once they've been accessed the first time, they can be played at any time from the Stage Select. Hidden in twenty-five of the game's stages are yellow Famicom cartridges. If the player manages to make contact with one, the stage ends early and they're transported to the Retro Challenge. The stage they were found in will not be counted as completed, and will need to be played again to completion if they hadn't already.

Runner3[]

In the third game, Retro Challenges are relegated to their own distinct hub worlds. There are three Retro Worlds housing 9 Retro Levels each. To access a Retro World, the player must locate a hidden VHS Tape in one of the levels in each hub. Once the Retro World is accessed, it can be entered and its stages can be completed at any time.

Gameplay[]

BIT.TRIP RUNNER[]

In the first game, the Retro Challenges play identically to the main game, but are significantly harder. They require far more precise timing than nearly anything in the base stages, with the difficulty of the earliest Retro Stages in Tenacity being comparable to some of the later standard levels in Triumph. The goal of these stages is to grab every gold bar while making it to the finish line. Successfully doing so will grant the player a second exclamation point over the level in the Level Select. Additionally, no music plays in these stages and the sound effects are cold and simplistic, making them somewhat resemble the NETHER MODE of previous and later entries. The player only has one life, and failing to collect all the Golds or colliding with an obstacle will result in failure and force the player out.

The visual style of these stages is akin to the graphical style of Atari 2600 games. Particularly resembling that of Pitfall.

Runner2[]

The second game maintains the difficulty curve, but it's far less steep, with Retro Levels being comparable to their base stages in terms of difficulty. The player is given three lives and does not have to complete the base level over again if they fail, instead merely requiring them to select it from the Level Select. Unlike the Retro Stages in RUNNER, these levels actually have music, though it does not sync with the action. Sound effects are livelier and more engaging as well.

These Retro stages resemble the graphical style of the 4th Generation of Game Consoles, featuring more detailed 8-Bit style graphics.

Runner3[]

The third game in the trilogy completely revamps the stages entirely. Instead of replicating the constant running of the base levels, these Retro Stages function as traditional platformers where the player is freely able to move. The ultimate goal is to locate and enter a goal portal, with five Gilden Coins hidden throughout the level for the player to collect. Players are given a dash attack to aid in platforming as well as killing enemies. Additionally, the player is given three Cores as hitpoints, one of few direct references to the original series in this game. If the player spends too much time in these levels, an endless number of flying enemies will spawn in order to make the level harder for the player.

The Retro Levels of this game had their visuals overhauled to resemble a hand-drawn aesthetic explicitly stated to be inspired by old cartoons. Gone are any nods to Pixel graphics beyond the aforementioned hitpoints. And CommanderVideo is rocking his Runner2 redesign.

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