Bionic Commando Rearmed

If Bionic Commando teaches us one thing, it's that having gadgetry physically attached to our bodies can only be a good thing. Commando's hero, Nathan Spencer ('Rad' to friends), has a grappling hook fixed into a bionic arm, enabling him to swing from ledge to ledge with dexterity and speed. It'd certainly make trolley dodging at your local Tesco a lot easier, being able to branch from aisle to aisle while the rest of us contend with the masses below, but I'm not sure it's an operation you're likely to find on the NHS.

Regardless, enhancing what you already have is a good metaphor for Bionic Commando, full stop. Like Spencer's mechanised arm, Rearmed is an enhanced re-imagining of something that already existed - in this case, 1980s classic Bionic Commando. But fear not, no prior knowledge of Spencer's previous adventures is needed -this is a full, standalone remake for the mobile, and it has much to offer.

In Rearmed, just as in the original, it's commando Nathan's job to rescue agent Super Joe from the clutches of an Imperial Army looking to piece together a super weapon. Doing so is a matter of zipping through 2D levels, taking out imperials and gaining vital bits of information from neutrals along the way.

In terms of actual play, Bionic Commando's lifeblood is using the grappling hook to climb and swing your way about levels. Unlike many other action titles out there, Nathan can't actually jump, meaning the only way you can traverse your way through the sometimes top heavy levels of Rearmed is to fire your hook towards ledges above you, either to climb or to swing across pitfalls.

It takes some getting used to, as not being able to jump over objects no higher than your knees initially seems a tad ridiculous, but swapping hopping over obstacles for a series of graceful swings results in some fairly unique level design, and gives Bionic Commando a sense of identity missig from many other 2D action titles, both new and old.

The grappling hook is controlled by four keys; '1' fires it horizontally in front of you, '3' vertically above you, '7' horizontally while crouched, and the '#' key diagonally in front of you. Making your way up it is a matter of hitting the '#' key again, which also causes you to swing from side to side in the process, giving you the option to leap over any gaps that interupt your path. Of course, you're not a sitting target. Using a range of guns you can fire straight ahead of you, either crouched or erect.

When all these elements are applied together, the speed of play required to progress is akin to the kind you'd find in a hectic puzzler, buttons having to be pressed in sequence, almost on instinct. This is not a game where you need to kill every bad guy patrolling the levels (though killing enough guards boosts your health) - success in Bionic Commando is measured by how quickly and, perhaps, deftly you can swing and climb your way to your goals, merely taking care of the combatants that block your path.

The problem here is, even when handled by developers at the top of their game, mobile phones aren't particularly made for speed, and managing to quickly move your fingers from shooting your hook to jumping back down and then firing your gun in the right direction is far more of an ordeal than it should be. In short, Rearmed isn't as perfect a fit for the mobile as a game developed from the ground up might be, but there's a lot here to keep you persevering.

Namely the game's originality. Rather than sticking to linear progression, once a level is opened up you can choose to head there or even head back to a previously completed zone to pick up extra lives or top up your health. Even small touches like this, and that missing 'jump' button, still seem like a novel approach now, in the original game's twentieth anniversary year.

This is recycling at its best, creating a title that, despite its very slight mobile misgivings, is still one of the very best in the genre and has much to offer for both those new to the series and those looking to rekindle a memory or two.

Bionic Commando Rearmed

Despite suffering slightly with control issues, Bionic Commando Rearmed offers solid gameplay for anyone bored with more by-the-numbers platformers
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