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Bionic Commando Rearmed (PlayStation 3) artwork

Bionic Commando Rearmed (PlayStation 3) review

"Ah the good old days of gaming, when things were simpler and games didn't last as long. Of course, this was probably because you lost all three lives within ten minutes of game play and then went to do something else, like play soccer or have a tea party with your sister. "

Ah the good old days of gaming, when things were simpler and games didn't last as long. Of course, this was probably because you lost all three lives within ten minutes of game play and then went to do something else, like play soccer or have a tea party with your sister.

For those not in the know (probably anyone younger than 20 at the time of this posting), Bionic Commando was one of the NES classics (and that was a sequel to a game you won't remember unless you're at least 25), in which you lead a guy with a stretchy mechanical arm through many stages laden with peril and Nazis, relying on your keen grappling skills to survive or, more often than not, plummet to your doom (you see, controls weren't very good in the old days). In terms of gameplay try to imagine Metroid if all the aliens were replaced by Germans. And Mother Brain was Hitler.

Yes, the game was insanely patriotic, despite being Japanese (the patriotism was actually tuned down in the American version... at least, the Nazis are taken out). Yes, the controls were bound to make you fling your controller across the room (or at least towards your sister's tea kettle). Yes, the color scheme made you wonder what audience the developers were targeting (I want to who decided puke orange and tangy green went well together).

But you know what? It was genuinely fun and innovative. The gameplay focused more on inventive use of your grapple-arm to explore dungeons that were vertically based, while most games at the time were still thinking on a purely horizontal plane. And it had, as a side note, great music, a sort of industrial military techno... which still doesn't really exist anywhere else.

Okay, jump forward to recent days, where they've revamped this game for modern times. How does it hold up? Surprisingly well, actually. Revamps seem to be a thing these days, with us having recently seen remakes of Megaman, various Final Fantasy games, and the soon to come Chrono Trigger, among others. And developers have gotten good at it. Bionic Commando keeps what was charming about the old game intact, while adding in more story (for those of you who were really close to the main characters) and a wonderfully tongue in cheek attitude that fits well with the over the top patriotism and attempted realism (though they try to pretend you're not beating up Nazis).

They didn't even improve the controls! Wow! Yeah, the controls do really suck. But that's part of the fun of the game. Trust me. It's called classic. Okay, maybe I should go into a little more detail here. You have a grappling arm... we've established that. We've also established that this arm will be, in most cases, the only way to progress through a level. The controls will often make it the fastest way you'll progress to death. Probably the biggest difficulty is controlling the direction of the arm, though timing it right is a close second. Actually grabbing something comes in at third.

But hey! It's cool when it works!

Really though, prior to the last piss-hard level, the game isn't all that difficult, thanks to a judicious save feature, tons of checkpoints, lots of health items, and enemies that can't hold a torch to you. And if that now sounds too easy, then try the special challenge stages, which one friendly soldier informed me were mostly for "training" purposes. Aided by this patriotic friend, I approached these thinking that training meant, you know, a place to learn cooler grappling skills. I learned that training was being used here in the same way an Olympic runner uses training to describe the next four years of his life.

There's also multiplayer, which I have not delved into much myself. I know there's both cooperative play and competitive play, and the descriptions all sound fun. Of course, that doesn't say much. Descriptions rarely tell you much these days. For instance, Xbox Live describes itself as a "friendly online environment." That's the kind of phrase I've come to expect at the welcoming mat of hell. In any case, my friend says the multiplayer is really entertaining, if you believe that I have friends.

Visually the game sees its biggest improvement. Though still functioning as a 2D platformer, it now does so in a fully 3D environment. Think of the improvement between the original Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Country. The environments are beautiful, the level design has been improved, and the animations for the characters are fluid. The music has changed as well, and has been modernized from 8-bit Military catchy industrial rock techno to MP3 quality industrial rock techno. Not really memorable, but more than listenable throughout the course of the game.

Of course, as a whole, it's not as innovative as it was two decades ago, but it's still a lot of fun, and for the $10 you'll pay for downloading it, it's a golden buy that adds some solid gaming goodness to your PS3. Get it now before they realize the amazing deal they've offered and raise the price to $15.

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (October 10, 2008)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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