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 Bionic Commando Rearmed 
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Post Bionic Commando Rearmed
Bionic Commando Rearmed
by: Sandra Prior





Remember the 80s? Well, they're back and everyone should be wearing big stupid sunglasses, Back to the Future sneakers and listening to Duran Duran going on about how great they really were. And they also should be playing Bionic Commando Rearmed, a faithful remake of 1988 NES classic Bionic Commando.

The game sees you taking control of Nathan ‘Radd’ Spencer, who looks like a ginger-coiffured version of Michael Biehn. For some reason Spencer has a bionic grappling hook instead of a right arm, which has also rendered him incapable of jumping. So rather than leaping from platform to platform, you have to use the bionic arm to latch onto the landscape and then hurl yourself off. At first it feels clunky, but after a few levels you'll be flinging yourself around the platforms gracefully.

As with the original, the game isn't limited to side-scrolling platforming. You're transported from level to level by a helicopter pilot, but as you do so your path can be interrupted by enemy trucks. You're forced to land, and Spencer has to fight off enemies in a top-down landscape. Although all these levels follow roughly the same format, they're still great fun.

In terms of tone, the game is pitch perfect. It feels like the game the original devs had in mind when they were making it 20 years ago: airbrushed artwork, brightly colored, brash and cheesy as a cheddary hell. Like the motocross game, Trials 2, this is nostalgic gaming given a post-millennial makeover, with nicely rendered characters, decent lighting, 3D backdrops and ragdoll physics. And it's got an awesome 8-bit soundtrack, which faithfully updates the original score but also makes it sound like Daft Punk.

It's quite astonishing just how solid the game's central mechanic still is. It feels like the 80s equivalent of Portal, in that it took a genre and fundamentally changed a single element, which resulted in surprisingly varied gameplay. As with Valve's weird shooter, the key to Rearmed is timing. Portal's influence is also evident in the newly-added test chambers, completed using your grappling hand and sheer dexterity.

Old School Multiplay

In addition to the single player missions. Rearmed also includes a non-networked multiplayer mode. Pleasingly (to me, at least), this involves sharing a keyboard with your opponents, chucking up memories of jostling around a mate's monitor to play Bomberman. Of course, playing online would be preferable, but plugging in a few extra pads is an option.

Co-op has also been added to the game. It works best on a widescreen monitor, as if one player ventures too far off-screen, it's split vertically. It's a little disorientating at first, but the mode itself is good fun. Developers Grin have put a lot in to making the game appealing to social gamers, and I can imagine Rearmed becoming as essential as Steers after a night out. But it's not without a few setbacks. It's limited by its very nature, and in being a direct remake it reminds you just how bloody punishing and unforgiving gaming was in its early days: no save points, just three lives gone and it's all over. This is the first game I've played this millennium that includes extra lives; a concept so long lost in my memory that it filled me with fuzzy warmth.

It's not going to be to everyone's tastes, but it is a bit of throwaway rose-tinted fun, and probably the most perfectly-realized slice of retro indulgence since Defcon. That is, until someone remakes Flashback, when 90s nostalgia kicks in.


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Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:16 pm
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