No Country for Bionic Men
Bionic Commando Rearmed was one of my favorite games on Xbox Live Arcade at the time. I had no nostalgia for the original Bionic Commando, and I was mostly apathetic towards sidescrolling games. Still, the mechanics, music and challenge of the game drew me in and I enjoyed it immensely. Most of this is retained in the sequel, but it struggles from being far less memorable.The game takes place a couple of years after the first Rearmed (and apparently before the current-gen Bionic Commando which I have not played). The game begins with Nathan "Rad" Spencer (pictured) and four other bionic commandos investigating the Papagayan Islands in search of a missing colonel and a dictator that threatens the FSA, the organization what enlisted Spencer. Twists happens, people get betrayed, yadda yadda. The story is nothing special and you probably won't care about any of the characters, so it's all rather moot. It doesn't help, then, that it is presented in the same way that it was in the first game, through text boxes and paintings of a few facial expressions. This would have been acceptable had the story been more interesting, but you are less inclined to follow the text on the screen and suddenly feel the need to look at your cat instead. It doesn't have enough humor or excitement to make you pay attention and in the end you just want to forget about it. This is definitely a game you play for the gameplay and not the narrative.
A lot of people found the first Rearmed too difficult. This has been remedied in the sequel. New mechanics are in place to make the game a lot more accessible so that it can become a fun experience for everybody. This is where the game manages to screw things up for itself. Most people will play this game on Normal difficulty, which provides little challenge. Soldiers are no match for your pistol. They don't shoot diagonally and they don't throw grenades on this difficulty. Turrets, flying robots and the like are there to make the opposition a bit more varied, but overall the game does not provide much challenge. The new perks system (they don't really call it that, but let's call it that) lets you use a nice arsenal of upgrades ranging from Electric Claw to Grenade Launcher to Health Regeneration, the latter being the one you will use the most. Lives work like this: You start with the maximum amount of lives at the beginning of each level, and as you collect lives this extends your maximum limit. At the end of the game I had over 20 lives! With all these things in place to make the game easier, it becomes up to the player to actually make this a challenge. Luckily the game has some mechanics in place for just that.
That doesn’t mean the game is void of new ideas. As you gather weapon upgrades and abilities, new routes in the level opens up. Replayability is made easy by the game’s level select screen, which lets you play any level with different settings. There is no need to start a fresh save to get the other achievements or play on a higher difficulty. That random electrical box you ignored the first time becomes a switch you can shoot with your electric weapon and a new weapon can be acquired. Every level besides the boss levels have several collectibles that you’ll probably have to play more than once to get all of. The scan function serves as a nice tutorial and lets you get some info on bosses and objects that you can interact with. The top down sections of the first Rearmed have been replaced with helicopter and sniping sections that are fun and serve to switch things up, but not to a big enough degree. Bosses return, but they can be a bit boring at times. Many of the bosses make you wait until you can attack them because they need to do something specific, which makes it a bit dull. The bosses are however pretty damn big and can get intense. Still, most of them are not very challenging, and I feel that there is less creativity behind them than in the first game.
Challenge Rooms return and is the most challenging part of the game. There are 24 rooms with some crazy level designs, which is refreshing considering the campaign's mostly dull platforming. Some of the rooms actually demand jumping, which is refreshing. If you liked them in the first game, you’ll love them here as well. They seem a bit more forgiving (unlike the first game I finished all of them), but still very rewarding.
The game has enough value to warrant its price. It’s got a decent campaign with 20+ levels that suffers due to a dull narrative and repetitive platforming, but the game makes up for it in replayability. On the right settings the game becomes rewarding and collecting everything can be fun. Overall it is a decent game that any BCR fan will like, but I consider this a disappointment compared to its predecessor.