Impressions: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Bionic Commando, undisputed classic of the NES era, was rebooted a couple of years ago in a not-so-enjoyable manner. Its first real next-gen imagining left a lot to be desired, though its companion release, a polygonal remake for XBLA/PSN re-titled Bionic Commando Rearmed, happened to be a sight more entertaining than the higher budget full-fledged release. It wasn’t as ambitious as the hokey hotdog-haired endeavor, but it was a sufficient remake that worked quite well. It’s now gotten a sequel, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, an adventure that follows Nathan “Rad” Spencer after the events of BC:R. It doesn’t hit all the high notes that its predecessor did, but is still a decent adventure that’s worth taking if you can stomach its premium price tag.

BC:R2 is really not too much different than the series. It’s a side-scrolling shoot-’em-up that places Spencer’s bionic arm center stage. This arm, like in the original game, is used to climb up into different areas and on a more entertaining note, to swing across the stages with the greatest of ease. You can now jump, too, but the achievement awarded for completing the game without ever doing it will slip straight out of your fingers. Of course, there’s more to Spencer’s quest than the ways he gets around.

Found throughout each level are a variety of weapons and upgrades – grenade launchers, melee upgrades, regenerating health, and a multitude of other goodies to keep things fresh, and to keep you a little less frustrated with the game’s slightly punishing difficulty. True, it’s a retro revival, but its challenging jumps and unforgiving foes are a bit too tough to enjoy fully at some points.

Factor that in along with some definite repetition wearing thin on your nerves early on in the game. You do too much of the same thing across the same boring types of stages we’ve seen so many times over in the past. It’s true the upgrades as previously mentioned do a little to take some of the monotony away, but it’s also one of the ways the game becomes mired in sameness. You need to go into your menu each time a weapon switch is necessary as long as you’re using upgrades. Otherwise, you can rely on the bumpers to switch, but it quickie gets old having to change in this manner so often. I’m not sure who found this to be an acceptable design decision.

In addition, gone are the days of nonlinear level progression like we saw with BC:R. There are no more of the enjoyable hacking minigames either, and both of these losses seem a little pointless to me. Why take out pieces of the game that have the potential to give it a little more oomph? At least its retro visual and aural charms remain intact.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is pricey at $15, especially for such a short downloadable adventure, and one that really doesn’t exactly improve on its predecessors. In many ways this sequel to the polygonal remake loses some of the fun and excitement that made the original (both downloadable and NES classic) so enjoyable, often substituting repetitive action platforming and questionable gameplay mechanics that can feel clumsy and imprecise. There’s also a jump button this time around, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) use it, as doing so just doesn’t feel right in a Bionic Commando game. It’s a decent adventure for die-hard fans of the series, but it just didn’t strike me as a must-buy, swimming in extra cash or not. Maybe it’s time to stop living in the past and move forward a little?

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