For the most part, my generation has shown an absolute unwillingness to let go of the past. Their slavish devotion to the media they grew up with has resulted in the recycling of any and all forms of media from the past 20 years which has, predictably, consumed the present. The result? Twenty years from now… what media will be created then? Will the children of today later demand a remake of Twilight? Will those who fell in love with Stacking find it imperative to the future that it be revamped for whatever the current console is (provided consoles are still around)?
It seems a lifetime ago to think that the original Bionic Commando was released in 1988. In 2008, the game was revamped into Bionic Commando ReArmed and to its credit, the remake was actually pretty slick. Graphically, it was a gorgeous rendering of a game lauded for its challenge as well as the rendering moot of the horizontal aspect of side scrollers by adding in vertical swinging.
Bionic Commando ReArmed 2 is a sequel to a remake that finds Nathan Spencer, the hero from the original XBLA game, swinging back into action. A new threat has emerged on an island in the Pacific and he and his team must head it off. World destruction will likely occur should Spencer fail, but you’re not going to let that happen are you?
You’re not playing a game like this for the story, you’re playing it for the ye olde school throwback. Bionic Commando ReArmed 2 is a fun title that brings a new twist to the original – you can now jump. The developers actually put in the one element that made the series as challenging as it was. So… now what?
Well, now you can jump and swing via your bionic arm which makes this less Bionic Commando and more of a 2D Spider-Man with a gun. You can still swing through the various levels, and yes, the jumping does make life easier. But that dumbing down of the original detracts from what made the original as challenging as it was. There’s no question that gaming has moved beyond, or should have moved beyond, the old “hunt for the pixel” style of gameplay. In the original, you frequently had to hunt for the exact pixel from which to fire your grapple. Now, you free run all over the place, jump, and fire your grapple to swing from one platform to the next.
Is it fun? Definitely. But my problem is less with the fun of the game and more with the idea of scaling back the challenge. I find as age encroaches that carping about such things seems to always start with the phrase, “Back in my day…” This game shows that they in no way make them like they used to. In short, a sequel to a remake feels like a Xerox too far and the dearth of originality here is obvious from the get-go. Not helping matters is the way that the previous game had better visuals than this one, and the original is three years old at this point.
The same thing happened with the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series and I have yet to understand how this is possible. How can developers release a game three years after the original and watch as side-by-side comparisons prove the original to possess graphical superiority? I don’t understand how someone could see that and say, “Yes, that’s the game we should release!”
So how does the sequel play compared to the original, which wasn’t so much original as a remake? The core gameplay remains fun and the variety of enemies and levels is fairly solid, even if the story is utterly lacking in luster. The point is to swing around each level taking out soldiers and figuring out how to move forward. This involves hitting strategically placed buttons in order to open doors which hinder your progress. Also doing their best to stop you are enemy soldiers who can be taken out in a variety of ways.
The beauty of this game is in how you can interact with objects in the environment. Of course, you can’t punch holes in walls… oh wait, yes you can! But a lot of fun comes from being able to snag a barrel with your grapple and hurl it at your foes. This was a gem created for the previous title and was retained for obvious reasons in the sequel. There is obvious fun to be had, and as your player advances through the game they are able to access several upgrades for health, armor, weaponry, and advanced technology for the bionic arm. This provides an incentive to replay missions in order to obtain previously inaccessible items.
However, this also brings up a nit I’ve begun picking with certain games. Forcing the replay of levels doesn’t make your game better, guys and girls, it just makes them longer. The recent Kingdom Hearts: ReCoded was especially bad about this toward the end when you had to replay several previous worlds just to reclaim abilities you’d spent the entire game accruing. This didn’t kill the title for me, far from it, but it did make finishing it way more of a chore than it might otherwise have been.
“ReArmed 2” doesn’t require you to replay the levels but it does offer enough hints that it would be worth your time to do so. Even this is mildly frustrating because it’s as though the game doesn’t have enough faith in your skills to earn even the most minor of upgrades in due course. It has to show them to you right up front and wave a big sign that says, “Not yours.” Frankly, it’s obnoxious as is the complete lack of any reason to do what you’re doing in the first place.
A bad guy is on an island, a team of bionics went in and now you’re going in after them. Okay, so who were they? Why should I care about them? Is global Armageddon really going to happen or was the boss just saying that to motivate me to jump out of a perfectly good helicopter? Eh. It doesn’t matter apparently. What does matter is the fact that your character can now jump! If that sounds like a slight amount of sarcasm, your belief is correct because the game seems to believe that’s a good enough reason to play it.
I’d say the reason to play it is that it’s a solid, if unremarkable, platformer that can be a slightly fun means by which to pass the time. There’s zero story and the bulk of the challenge has been removed, thereby reducing Bionic Commando ReArmed 2 to just another side scrolling shooter with some jumping elements.
I defy anyone to pick this game out of a line-up of similar titles, but it’s a passable way to spend an evening if you’re sans family or friends. But if your friends are online and you can coax them into downloading this, then you can play through it together via co-op. But only if your friend is sitting next to you since online co-op is not available despite being a component of the original remake of the original. So enjoy, or snag one of a hundred other XBLA titles that are far better suited to your time.