You’re Nathan “R.A.D” Spencer, a Bionic Commando on his first mission, sent to rescue captured agent Super Joe from the Imperials.
You’re phat_chopps. It’s 1988 and you’re sat in front of your Speccy in your pyjamas, desperately trying to get to the third level of the classic Capcom platformer and loving every minute of it. Especially the brain-shredding 128k music.
Bionic Commando Rearmed is a remake of the 8-bit classic, Bionic Commando (no, really?), and not to be confused with the up-coming 3D version (Bionic Commando in 3D? Witchcraft!). The younger, weaker, readers among us may not be aware of the righteous history of Commander Spencer and his bionic arm – which is basically an extendable claw - but back in '88 he was all the rage. Swinging from tree-to-tree, grappling with goons and getting stuck behind flashing cages - the man was a legend.
Nothing much has changed in those 21 years - he's still swinging around like a monkey with ADHD, still fighting off hoards of bad guys, but this time everything's in glorious modern-o-vision. But not too modern - this is, after all, a homage to a bygone age of videogames. An age where graphics and sound came third and fourth after playability and enjoyment. True, games have moved on and what was considered playable 20 years ago is now possibly considered tragically painful, but this game is fun. Fun with a capital FUN.
Let’s ignore its heritage for a moment, shall we? It's a simple game in the extreme, but that doesn't work against it. Far from it - it's one of its main advantages. You pick a level from many - you can go pretty much where you want, although some levels require special equipment to progress which you can pick up from a friendly base (like flares, which you alarmingly strap to your leg to see in caves – R.A.D. Spencer is clearly a man who doesn't much care for personal safety. Possibly on account of having already lost an arm). The levels themselves are short - so far anyway, I haven’t completed the game yet - and don't involve much more than using your arm to get around the place, or gunning people down. Each level is themed and has its own, unique boss - including a marvellous brigadier who's immune to attack from the front as he's protected by his rows and rows of medals. There are practice levels in the form of simulators to muck about in, and a host of secrets to find. Indeed, you can revisit early levels to find their hidden treats using weapons unlocked later in the game. All decent fare for a self-respecting platform game.
It also has the odd mini-game: one hacking game when you attempt to connect to the Imperial’s computer system, and a Commando-style, vertically scrolling shooty bit if your chopper gets intercepted by an enemy truck on the level select screen. Both are unflinchingly simple but are nice, slick diversions. A successful hack reveals enemy Intel on the end of level boss you're going to face, revealed in a recording of a conversation between a private and his captain, and these are often hilarious. They're presented using a mix of 80's graphics and corny Japanese style conversation – which is how all conversations pan out in my head - they wouldn't look out of place on a SNES. The boss fights are also funny, with R.A.D's over the top posturing and one-liners worthy of any bargain-bin action film. This is obviously a VERY good thing indeed. So, taken on its own merits, it shines - I mentioned that I haven’t completed it yet, but I do fully intend to 100% this little beauty.
As a tribute to the games of the 80's though, it's brilliant. It absolutely hammers the feel of the games of the era. The music is undeniably 8-bit - all bleepy and electronic. The graphics are side-on heaven, smoothly updated with decent animation and oodles of non-clashing colours so it doesn’t resemble a pile of moving sick. The only aspect that doesn't translate so well to The World Of The Future is the control system - the game was designed for an old-school microswitched joystick and using a 360 analogue stick feels a bit odd. I struggle to hit certain ledges as the analogue control is just a bit imprecise. Mind you, I am horribly old, and only it's a minor frustration - one that's easy to live with as the rest of the game feels so right.
I get the impression that the developers have absolutely nailed what they set out to achieve with this: a gloriously fitting tribute to not only an aged classic but also a golden era of gaming, whilst also creating a great game in its own right. Give it a go – it’s a right laugh.