Bionic Commando Rearmed
Remember when we could have games about war that didn't parade about the place trying to out-reality everyone around them? Those wintr'y eves when we could sit around our Nintendos and, with all the sobriety of a man about to watch a serious documentary about Gulf War ethics, fire up a game about a commando with a bionic arm who swings off things and kicks people in the face with his iron boots?
I don't, because I hadn't played the original Bionic Commando until I was assigned to this review. So any sheen of nostalgia over the original is blasted away by a condensed stream of my own ignorance. I can't be alone - although it's touted as a classic, proponents of the original are now lawyers, surgeons and architects who've got more important things to think about. That's why Capcom have brushed it up and sent it out - to raise awareness of bionically-armed commandos in the run up to their sequel (simply titled Bionic Commando, and still mostly under wraps).
A side-scrolling platformer lacking in a jump button, Bionic Commando Rearmed forces you to rethink the genre basics by giving you a grappling hook for an arm. It's this tool that you use to traverse the game's levels, a chain that shoots out at 45° angles, latches on to any ceiling it can find and allows you to swing from it. Tapping the grappling hook key reels the hook in, either pulling you up or pulling an object towards you. Another key fires the weapons you unlock as the game goes on, most of which will only fire horizontally.
Such restrictive controls take some getting used to, the horizontal firing itself forcing you to use the bionic arm to move into position before attacking enemies. Vertically, then, plays heavily in almost all aspects of Rearmed, and once your fingers become accustomed to the mechanical nature of your bionic abilities, it really becomes an elaborate and joyful dance of a game.
Rearmed even acknowledges the counter-intuitiveness of some of its more difficult techniques, with self-deprecating humour peppered throughout the game's tutorial. A play of the NES original shows that the dialogue has been completely rewritten, transforming the mood of the game entirely. Hacking communications reveals hilarious conversations between enemy forces that details the weak spots of that level's boss fight, often referencing the original game, even taking the piss out of Metal Gear Solids extended Codec conversations. The boss fights themselves are all starkly original, a throwback to true retro ingenuity.
This rigorous adherence to the original game pulls it down towards the second half however, as the levels and enemies turn on you unfairly, with hidden, impossible-to-avoid pits and infuriatingly difficult-to-kill enemies.
The fashion at the time of course, was to make your closing levels as hard as crusty dog shit to beat, a tendency which now leaves a foul taste in our pampered mouths.
For eight quid though, Bionic Commando Rearmed is a masterful remake, even if it's one you'll never muster the patience to finish.