Swing and a miss.Edit
Bionic Commando Rearmed, released in 2008, is a very special game. It took an already excellent NES classic and expertly updated it with modern pleasantries. The swinging mechanics and lack of ability to jump has always set Bionic Commando apart from other platformers. Developer Grin built on that uncommon foundation in 2008, adding new bosses, levels, and the rare video game soundtrack that I wanted to download to my iPod.
Its sequel, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, does not feel special. Perhaps it's because it isn't a remake of a classic -- there was never a sequel to Bionic Commando on the NES. Whatever the reasons, this original adventure feels like the cheaper direct-to-video follow-up to a blockbuster action film. There's still some fun to be had, but it's been stripped of its individuality.It's rather baffling that jumping has been added to Rearmed 2. Now you can leap and bound over levels with considerably more ease. Granted, you don't have to jump, and the game will make note of it and grant you an achievement or trophy if you make it through every level without using your legs to leave the ground. But now there isn't as much focus on interesting swinging
What swinging there is has been made more cumbersome by removing the ability to just hold the analog stick or d-pad in the direction you want to swing through and release -- now you have to tap a button to release, adding an extra step to the process.
The level design isn't exciting. When I would finish a level I didn't think, "Wow, that was awesome!" It was more of a "Well, I just played a level in a video game." You're encouraged to do a lot of backtracking to previous areas to find new equipment after you've upgraded your skills, but returning isn't necessary.
A few of the upgrades are fun to play with, though, such as the Electro Claw, which can be used to shock enemies like a taser. Several passive upgrades have been added, such as health regeneration. However, health regeneration is so valuable I never wanted to use anything else. Other new gameplay additions include brief sniper and helicopter-flying sequences, but all of these sequences lack depth.
There is one particularly cool boss fight against a machine called the Titan about midway through the game,but the other two large bosses are recycled multiple times with slight adjustments to their patterns. When you finally take down the evil dictator at the end, his warship explodes and falls off the screen in silence without any sound effects.The original Bionic Commando Rearmed impressed with its high production values. Rearmed 2 feels more like a budget title. The music isn't quite as good, the controls don't feel perfect, and the story was forgotten as soon as I experienced it. I've just finished the game, for instance, and I really can't tell you what happened in any great detail. Some dictator was trying to launch a missile and the Bionic Commando had to run around and shoot people. That's all I remember. Those enemies you're shooting have very little variety – you're still facing the same brain-dead cronies in the final stages as you were in the beginning.
Two and a half years ago, Rearmed's visuals were quite impressive for a downloadable game, but since then, more and more great-looking games have been released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Rearmed 2's graphics still look like they're from 2008. I went back and played the first Rearmed again while working on this review, and I think it still looks better than this sequel. How does that work?
The story can be played through with a friend locally in its entirety, but adding a second Commando doesn't change the game at all. Outside of the story, the Challenge Rooms return, offering fun time challenge diversions. You are presented with a difficult obstacle course and must make it to the exit in as short a time as possible. Made it in record time? Upload your results to the leaderboards. Good stuff.
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is not a bad game, but it's a huge swing away from the first Rearmed, which was a masterpiece. What was once a platformer in a class of its own is now just another platformer. Jumping adds nothing to Bionic Commando. I guess it's true: you really can't teach an old dog new tricks.