In 2008, GRIN released Bionic Commando Rearmed, a remake of the original 1988 NES version of Capcom's platformer. It was homage, and it was good. Why, exactly, did we need a sequel?
I mean, Bionic Commando Rearmed was a remake of the first game. There was a point to that. A second "Rearmed" game, though, with no sequel to base itself off, sounds like a project looking for a purpose. And that's exactly how the game plays.
With original developers GRIN no longer around, development on this sequel has been handled by fellow Swedes Fatshark, the team behind the underwhelming Lead & Gold (and promising Hamilton's Big Adventure). It's a big ask of the studio, because what they're essentially working on is Bionic Commando 2, the classic arcade sequel Capcom never got around to making itself.
Why You Should Care
Despite this being an all-new project, with some fundamental changes made to the Bionic Commando formula, it's still an old-school arcade experience at heart. If you like to play rough, with brutal 2D platforming, traditional boss battles and limited lives, this is definitely one of those games.
What We Liked
Music: The highlight of the first Rearmed for many, myself included, was the game's amazing soundtrack. Well, that game's composer, Simon Viklund, is back, and this game's music is just as good, full of heavy, dirty chiptunes that once again complement the mix of old-school gameplay and 21st-century graphics perfectly.
Jumping: Let's get this straight: you don't have to jump in BCR2. In fact, when you finish the game you can unlock the ability to remove the feature altogether, as the levels are designed so you don't ever need to. That said, you'll find you use it a lot, as jumps - as small as they are - are often a safer and cleaner way to navigate short obstacles than the bionic arm. Any fears that jumping would somehow "ruin" the game, making it less of a Bionic Commando experience, are unfounded; this definitely feels like a Bionic Commando game, only now you can jump quickly over barrels instead of having to laboriously yank them out of the way.
What We Didn't Like
Swinging: The heart of Bionic Commando - what separates it from every other platformer on the market - is its swinging and grappling mechanics. They're the core of the game. The first Rearmed's were a problem sometimes, yes, but in switching to a new model, Rearmed 2's are even worse. Grappling now feels "twitchier", as you have to press once to attach then again to dismount. Sounds easy, but what happens in tense platforming moments is that one accidental tap can send you crashing to your death, something I found happening a lot. Your line also appears shorter and swinging less fluid, which again makes moving around harder than it should be.
Punishment: There's a fine line between designing a platforming level to be difficult and designing it to be cruel. In some cases, BCR2's stages fall into the latter category. Whenever there is water or a bottomless pit around, I lost entire continues as the grappling problems listed above made it ridiculously tough to cross certain obstacles. It often crossed the line from challenging to frustrating, and I don't want frustration in my video games.
Facsimile: The whole game feels slightly off. It's to be expected, really, since it's a sequel to a game that was a remake of a game that never had a sequel. Phew. From the character designs, which aren't as charming, to the humour, which isn't as funny, to the boss battles, which are drab and unimaginative, BCR2 often feels like you're watching the world's best Bionic Commando impersonator. It's good, sometimes indistinguishable from the original, but at times you can tell it's just not the same.
The Bottom Line
In its own right, BCR2 is fine. It's a polished, challenging and professional platformer that anyone interested in old-school games (and old-school frustration) should definitely check out. It's just, as a sequel to one of the best downloadable games ever made, it comes up short in too many key areas to make it as important - or enjoyable - a game as its predecessor.
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 was developed by Fatshark and published by Capcom for the PlayStation Network (version played) and Xbox Live Arcade. Released on February 1 & 2 respectively.. Download only, retails for $15. A code to download the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed main campaign in singleplayer, played a few levels on local co-op and tried a few of the challenge rooms.