Inside Pulse 12

Review: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
Developer: Fatshark
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Side-scrolling platformer
Release Date: 02/11/2011

Bionic Commando was one of the first NES games I ever beat without using cheat codes. I adored that game, and still do. It’s one of those games that just never ages for me. I can pop it in my old NES top loader today and still have as much fun with it as I did when I was a teenager.

So as you can imagine, when I heard the game was being remade with new music and graphics by a European design team, I was more than a bit concerned. Little did I know that of the two Bionic Commando games released in that time frame, Bionic Commando: Rearmed would turn out to be the good one.

I had issues with it here and there. The gameplay seemed the same speed but the slower running animation made the new game look slower. The new version, despite having new boss battles that weren’t in the original, seemed easier than the original. but otherwise, I thought it was a fantastic homage to the original.

Alas, I cannot say the same for the sequel.

First off, I’m wondering when Rad’s gonna get his dreadlocks in this series and start talking to the dead wife on his arm, or is Capcom officially striking that game from the story canon at this point?

Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 is not a bad game, so to speak. But it is a fine example of a very old truism: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The storyline is just as transparent as it was before, and isn’t really an issue. Rad and his bionic cohorts are sent in to dethrone a despot. Cut. Print. Scene. It’s not bad, but it’s not amazing either. It’s just there as a frame work for the gameplay, and with this kind of title, that’s all you really need (Metroid: Other M is a good example of what happens otherwise).

The graphics are just as good, but no better, than the previous title. Rad is wearing what looks like a bright skydiving jumpsuit and sneakers, and is now sporting an obnoxious 70’s style mustache that makes him look like Ginger P.I., but the bosses are still huge, the level layouts are very well done, the lighting effects are still great, and there’s no graphical hiccups marring the eye candy. The game looks good. It just doesn’t do anything visually to raise it above its predecessor.

Just as with the last title, there is no spoken dialogue. The story is told via text from floating heads (one of whom is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Go see for yourself in the opening scene. There’s just no mistaking it. It’s the Rock.) The music is done in the same style as the original game, with a few clips here and there brought over, but most of it is original music. It fits in with the previous title, but it’s not as good, mainly because it’s not based on an 8-bit soundtrack, so it just sounds like generic trippy music. The whole “chiptunes” feel is gone. The sound effects are pretty much ported over from the previous game, so it all works, but you won’t really hear anything new.

My main gripe with the game are the changes to the controls. For the first time in the classic Bionic Commando series, Rad can jump. The levels are designed to where you don’t ever need to jump (there’s even an achievement for going through the whole game without ever jumping) but still, it’s there.

Why?

If the levels are all designed to where you can get through them without using it, why put a jump mechanic in the game at all? To make it easier for people who don’t like the swing mechanic? If you don’t like navigating the levels with the bionic arm, why are you playing Bionic Commando?! Go play Rocket Knight, or Shadow Complex, or Splelunker HD. This game is not for you. The jump button servers only to dilute the experience. So my first recommendation for those out there just getting into the game is this: don’t use the jump button. The fun and spirit of this series revolves around that bionic arm. Use it.

My second bit issue is the control scheme. They’ve changed the way the bionic arm works and made it needlessly more complicated. The previous title, much like the original, only required one press of the button to swing with the bionic arm. You hit the button, the arm latched on, you swung, then hit again to grab the next swing point.

That’s all out the window. Now, you hit the button to latch on, and press a direction to swing. Then, you press it again to let go. Then you have to press it a third time to latch on to something else. So they’ve essentially doubled the amount of button presses required to do what half the presses accomplished no only on the previous game, but on the NES original over 20 years ago.

Again, why? What could possibly be a valid design reason for changing a core gaming mechanic that’s been rock solid for over 20 years? It would be like bringing out a new Contra game but changing its controls to be like the arcade version of Midnight Resistance where you use the second stick to control the direction of your gun.

Why. WHY? Why, Fatshark?! WHY?!

Now they’ve added other things here and there, like the ability to send charges of electrical current through your arm to electrocute enemies, and there’s various perks you can get like slow health regeneration that basically makes the game far too easy once you have it, but is also the only really useful perk out of what’s been added here.

There’s a “biovision” option that’s been added that basically acts like those little red strips that came with G1 Transformers, where you’d lay this red strip over the meter on the back of the box and it would reveal that Transformer’s strengths and weaknesses. Here, you’ll be running along, and see something you can highlight with your Biovision that occasionally gives you clues on how to fight the boss of that level, but more often than not tells you “Press A To Jump,” and other tidbits that weren’t even useful during the first level, much less as the game drags on.

The challenge missions have returned and are as difficult as ever, but feel like they were just tacked on to pad out the replayability. The same goes for the new two player co-op. It’s rather difficult to play the game this way, as you can’t see what’s above or below you at all due to the game trying to keep both players centered on the screen, so you both end up just slinging your bionic arms wildly trying to find invisible markers you can latch onto. It’s more of a pain than it’s worth. Aside from that, once you’ve beaten the game there’s little motivation to go back. Only Achievement junkies will have reason to do so.

It’s hard to tell who this game was made for. Diehard fans of the series are going to hate a good deal of what has been changed here, and gamers new to the series are going to be frustrated by swinging mechanics that are far harder to master than in the original title (yet they made the bosses easier, go figure. They made the bosses a cakewalk, but made getting to them a pain in the bionic behind. WHY?!) In trying to make the game easier for newer gamers to enjoy, it has instead been made needlessly more difficult by changing the core mechanic of the series, which will alienate both audiences it was designed for. The idiocy of some of the poor decisions made here are just astounding. This game could have been released on April 1st and I’d still be shocked by it.

The Scores
Story: Bad
Graphics: Good
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: mediocre
Balance: bad
Originality: mediocre
Addictiveness: mediocre
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Bad
FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 has all the things that made the previous game so great, but still manages to be a pale imitation. The controls have been over complicated in an attempt to dumb them down for less-skilled players, the bosses have all been given a case of the derps, and the new local co-op is utterly useless. Pick it up when XBLA runs a sale on it, otherwise just pretend it never came out at all and stick with what works, as the developers should have done.

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