Some games have played with the "gotta go right" nature of platformers. Go left at the beginning of Limbo, and you'll get an achievement for your cheeky, subversive behavior. But Commander Video embraces his rightward destiny. In fact, he goes right whether you want him to, or not. It's your job to deal with the obstacles he encounters, collecting gold and building the music as he goes.
Gold bars are the basics. Collect these for a musical chime, and a lump of score. Collect the red plusses, and another layer will add to the music, making every level feel like a little crescendo. And everything else you do, whether it's running downstairs or loop-the-looping with a swing of the left thumbstick, is represented gently in the music. It's not just about beating enemies, overcoming hazards. It's about being a part of the soundtrack.
Your range of moves begins with jumping up steps, and over some spiky helmet guys. Then, ducking under walls, and rotating saws. Nudging up to use a springboard, and right to activate a shield that knocks floating cubes away from you. Then you're given combos to deal with: jumping while sliding to snick between a helmet guy and a sawblade, kicking your way through flying barriers at the peak of a launchpad toss. Everything's introduced slowly, and gently drummed home. It's an exercise in the happiness of obedience. The satisfaction of understanding what you're supposed to be doing, and being rewarded for doing it.
The levels are fixed, so it feels like there's a defined maximum score. That's a bit of a leaderboard killer, which is what dancing is for. A squeeze of the right trigger, and the Commander will dance for a second. This added distraction is brilliant - trying to squeeze dancing into a small gap will almost certainly lead to a string of jubilant suicides. Dancing is how you'll get to the top of the leaderboards, and it adds an excellent layer of challenge and panic.
It can, however, get frustrating, and not always for the best reasons. For example, there's a drunk green alien in the first world, the Welkin Wonderland. He mans the checkpoint, which doubles up as a bonus gamble. If you jump over it, you get a points boost, but you'll have to restart the level from scratch if you stumble in the second half. Jump over it, and boy! This green guy loves it. He enthusiastically runs alongside you, in a way that is almost completely charming. If you're watching. If you're playing, it's a focus-killing distraction that caused me, on several occasions, to run into a spiked helmet. It's an annoying way do die, especially after you've just jumped over the only damn checkpoint.
The barriers that you have to kick out of the way can pull off a similar trick - the red signs that get booted into the foreground can be a distracting pain in the eye-arse. It's hardly my position to tell people infinitely more artistic and creative than myself what their game should be, but Runner 2 feels like it should be a game of pure reaction, not distraction. These things compromise the pure essence of the previous, non-Xbox titles.