You would think that a remake of a 20 year old 2D action game may not stand up against all of the big 3D games being released at the same time. Throw into the mix the fact that you can't jump and you might think that this game is downright archaic, the type of product that should remain a relic of the good old 8-bit days. But Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Capcom's inspired remake of the 1987 Nintendo Entertainment System game, is not your typical Xbox Live Arcade title. Instead it's a surprisingly relevant action/platformer that plays great, looks even better and feels just as relevant today as it did all those years ago.
Like many of Capcom's other updated remakes (including Mega Man: Powered Up and the GameCube Resident Evil remake), Bionic Commando: Rearmed works both as a fun nostalgia trip for gamers of a certain age and an exciting action game for those new to the series. This is not one of those games where you'll feel like you're missing something if you're too young (or just unfamiliar) with the original title, but at the same time the game works on another layer that actually makes it even more rewarding for those who remember fighting the evil B.A.D.D organization two decades ago.
In Bionic Commando: Rearmed you play Radd Spencer, a special commander fitted with a custom bionic arm that allows him to deflect bullets and, most importantly, fire out a grappling hook that will allow him to climb and swing out of danger. Radd is tasked with saving Super Joe, a fellow member of the Federation who somehow, despite his name, was able to get kidnapped by Generalissimo Killt and his B.A.D.D. terrorist organization. In order to do this Radd is going to have to kill hundreds of enemies, hack into the enemy's communication towers, find all sorts of weapon upgrades and be incredibly lucky.
True to the original game; Bionic Commando: Rearmed remains a 2D action game, even though every element is now rendered using full 3D polygons. For the most part the gameplay remains exactly the same, which means that you still won't be able to jump. At first your character's inability to jump feels like an impediment, especially when you consider that for two decades every video game character under the sun has had their own jump button. Heck, these days most game characters can do more than jump ten feet into the air ... they can also double jump. Well, don't expect that kind of innovation in this game, because in order to climb up buildings, dodge enemies and do pretty much everything else this game has to offer, you are going to have to use your bionic arm. Thanks to the game's creative level designs and the solid gameplay what seems like a problem actually turns into something pretty cool by the end of the game, but there's no denying that for the first couple of hours things are going to feel a bit awkward.
Radd's bionic arm is about more than just climbing levels and swinging to safety, it's also good at grabbing far away items, deflecting bullets and allowing you to pick up barrels and rocks that you can throw at your enemies. The game's levels are designed specifically for your bionic arm, so you'll have all kinds of fun tooling around the levels looking for new areas to discover and different ways to take out your foes. Sure you can run through the level just shooting the bad guys like it was some sort of Contra knock-off, but the fun of this game is in the discovery and new things you can do with the grappling hook. There are plenty of 2D action games where you're a commando killing enemies with a gun, but how many games give you a cool grappling hook to play around with? Not many, and maybe that's why all these years Bionic Commando still feels fresh.
Oddly enough there's one part of Bionic Commando: Rearmed that doesn't feel very fresh. While most of the levels are of the 2D side scrolling variety, from time to time you'll have to take part in an overhead mission, similar to what we saw in one of Capcom's other recent Xbox Live Arcade titles, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3. However, unlike Commando 3, these overhead levels aren't controlled with the dual stick. Instead you shoot the direction you're facing, which feels incredibly dated and clucky. Thankfully these missions are short; they end the moment you get to the end and blow up a vehicle with a gunner on the back. I found these levels to be so tedious that more times than not I would run through the level completely ignoring the enemies just so that I could get through it quicker and move on to the rest of the game. It's a shame Capcom wasn't able to upgrade these levels and make them more interesting.
As you fight through the game's twenty or so marked areas you'll uncover a number of new weapons and items. In total there are six different weapons, including a powerful shotgun, a rapid fire machine gun, a laser blast that has bullets that bounce off of walls, a rocket launcher, and more. And these weapons don't just make it easier to take out enemies; they also allow you to access new areas. Knowing the pros and cons of each of these six weapons is one of the most important parts of the game, especially when dealing with some of the harder characters and bosses towards the end of the game.
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