Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bionic Commando Rearmed Review (PSN and XBLA)

There comes a time when you really need to think about the game you're playing; you invest your time and money reading, watching then eventually playing a game. Sometimes you luck out and your decision was the right one, other times you're not so lucky and feel that you could have used that time more effectively elsewhere.

One fundamental aspect about downloadable games that while great for the money cautious person still poses a problem: the true try before you buy option. Demos only give you a small flavour, but sometimes you need to play more than just a modified portion of the game. Demos are never 'true' to form and in order to get the proper experience you need to play the game for a good amount of time before you can say to your self 'I like' or 'I don't like' a certain game.

This is where I begin with Bionic Commando Rearmed, the 'new' game from Capcom developed by Grin Studios. Bionic Commando Rearmed is the remake of the original NES game from the 80s. With Bionic Commando having an upcoming 3D-HD version just around the corner, what better way to help market that game then by releasing the original to the millions of gamers who did not have the chance to experience the game then.

I had never played a Bionic Commando game, be it the Nintendo, Arcade or even the Game Boy versions. I was not a fan of the series and knew very little about it. That quickly changed once I read about the remake and I was smitten with the games cool graphics, sound and campy but fun storyline. Now after playing it, I still believe that the game is incredibly cool to look at and with a solid soundtrack, but the games controls are so difficult to use that it turns the game into a disappointment of sorts.

The story behind Bionic Commando is simple. You play a Commando Solider sent to rescue a fellow solider and take down the opposing army, it's your typical 80s Cold-War movie. You have to take out the enemy and fight bosses in your search for your friend and the evil General leading the opposition.

Unlike other platform games of the past, rather than using the jump mechanic to get from point A to point B, Bionic Commando has your character, Nathan 'Rad' Spencer, use his Bionic Arm's grapple to swing from ledges. While the mechanic and the method is fantastic, the game's controls are so inconsistent that often you will get frustrated at the game for that reason alone. Most of the game requires you to swing from ledges and move around the stages with your grapple, but if you don't time your swings properly and fail to point your character's arm in the right angle; you'll miss your next section. This can sometimes be a minor set-back depending on where you are, but in other cases it will result in death.

The original game from what I've read was incredibly difficult and that doesn't change here. I am not sure if the difficult stemmed from the game's original controls but that is the case here. You can get pretty far in the game on shear luck. The boss battles at the end of each stage can be really easy if you move fast and determine their weak-spot. What I found difficult was actually getting to the bosses, thanks to the twitchy controls.
The missions of the game are based on a map with each level given a number. You have your enemy levels and your ally levels. In your ally levels, this is where you get extra material necessary to further yourself in the game and to unlock extras. When on the map screen, if you encounter an enemy convoy, you will play a Top-down level where you need to lead Spencer to the end to take out the main convoy to proceed. These are nice distractions, but sometimes when you're trying to just get to the next level may anger you. They are easy enough that you should only take a few minutes to complete.

The game also includes a series of Challenge Rooms with high-scores being uploaded to the Bionic Commando web-site. While great, these challenges are incredibly difficult and you will get frustrated even more so at the game. It might not be such a bad idea to play the challenge rooms to get better at the game, but be prepared to scream and yell at your screen when your 'AI' dies/fails.

Bionic Commando Rearmed is a great looking game. For a downloadable title, it is a really nice site to look at. While it's 2D, the characters all have 3D sprites and the environments also look stunning. This game makes you wish/hope that more classic 2D games from back in the day get re-made to look this good. The sound is also really enjoyable with a stunning electronic based soundtrack. The music is remixed from the original and really cool. If you enjoy the soundtrack, you can purchase the album off of iTunes.

My recommendation of this game is based entirely on your preference of the genre. If you enjoy the classics or were a fan of the original game, then you'll no doubt enjoy this game. But if you have never played this game before I must suggest you not only play the demo but try to find a friend who has it and play the game in more depth. You can't judge this game fairly before spending enough time with it. If you can get past the twitchy controls, then you will have a great time with it, but if you can't then this game is not for you.

I still have every intention on continue playing this game. It's not unplayable and while the controls are bad in my opinion, it is not to the point where you would say the game is unplayable. As long as you keep practicing and realize the game is intentionally difficult, you should feel good about yourself once you finally manage to complete it. If you can't take the stress, then I strongly suggest you play something else.

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