He might jump and have a mustache, but he sure ain't Mario.
Rad Spencer makes his return to consoles in Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, the sequel to the 2008 remake to Bionic Commando. It's a completely new game that builds upon the original in a lot of ways but fails in some of the base things that make a platformer fun and engaging.
[image1]Bionics are on the up ever since the Generalissimo conflict that took place during the first game. Thanks to that, the Army now has a squad of bionically-enhanced soldiers that are led by Spencer, the original Bionic Commando. When a fake Latin American dictation turns rogue, it's up to our claw-armed, red-haired, and now facial-haired hero to stop him.
The main gameplay change that has been turning heads is the addition of jumping. The Bionic Commando games have been known mainly due to their lack of said basic platforming trope and the addition of such mechanic to Rearmed 2 helps it turn into a little more dynamic experience, while still retaining much of the complex swinging gameplay.
You're still running around and swinging your way through a linear set of stages, each containing a number of secrets to be obtained. Some of these secrets are purely Achievement/Trophy-based, while others are actually useful equipment upgrades. Like the Metroid games, some of these items are hidden in nooks that can only be reached after you obtain a certain type of weapon or trinket, which adds a certain amount of replayability to these stages.
Other weapons are given to you automatically as you make your way through the game, like a shotgun and a rocket launcher. The game doesn't really do a good job of explaining when you're getting something that you need other than offering a lame little scanning visor that tells you what can be used to destroy a certain obstruction. This sometimes forces you to backtrack to levels after exhausting your possibilities by trying to get something that isn't really meant to be received yet.
[image2]Normal enemies like soldiers and robots are just bullet sponges standing between you and your swinging glory. Independent of what weapon you use to dispatch them, they're just there to slow you down. Sure, you can toss a barrel and do away with them too, but they provide no challenge whatsoever. Toward the end of the game, you'll start running across some very cheaply designed levels, with annoying enemy placement. Due to the fact that Spencer suffers from a backward thrust every time he is hit, drops become frequent even with the slightest contact with an enemy, even when you happen to jump over them. Three times out of four, you'll get hit and be knocked back. The game becomes more frustrating than Ninja Gaiden 1 on the NES nearing the end, and that's saying something.
Another thing that drives the momentum of the game down to a halt is the boss battles. It's completely all right to have boss fights in a game like this and, understandably, there are quite a few in Rearmed 2. The problem is that they're incredibly slow. Enemies are painfully sluggish and predictable. Basically, you will dodge some sort of attack while waiting for an inevitable opening to show up. After a certain amount of damage is done to the boss, he goes back to his patterns, and it's a rinse and repeat process 'til they're dead. There's no depth at all, even nearing the end of the game – a missed opportunity, plain and simple.
Graphically, Rearmed 2 looks great. It's basically a 3D game set at a 2D perspective, so models animate well and enemies bounce around with real (and sometimes ridiculous) physics. Sadly, though, when the action gets too busy on screen, the framerate drops to a halt, which not only throws off your controls but also messes up jumps – the death of a precision game like this. In a specific boss fight, this occurs rather often, making it frustratingly difficult on top of it already being slow.
The core gameplay and level design work well for most of the game, though. Swinging around is a joy once you get acclimated with the somewhat confusing control scheme. Some of the swinging controls have been tweaked in favor of adding the jump mechanic and veterans of the original game will find themselves missing jumps due to the slight differences between the controls in comparison to the first Rearmed. With that in mind, a twin stick fashion for the arm and shooting controls is something to think about. Maybe in Rearmed 3?
[image3]Like the original game, after you are done with the main adventure mode (or before), you can jump and swing your way through a few challenge rooms that become ridiculously difficult towards the end. As with the main mode, the challenges are all tied into online leaderboards and will probably be where Rearmed 2 will find its replayability legs.
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 does a good job following up the incredibly catchy and fun Rearmed 1. It's a new game and not a remake, and that works in both its benefit and to its detriment. Some of the new features just slow the pacing down and for a fast game like Bionic Commando, that's just fatal, while others are just serious issues that should have been ironed out before release.