Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Cover
Platforms PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Genre Retro remake's swingin' sequel
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Keep Playing? Yes
Looking back, Bionic Commando Rearmed may have been a more important game than most realize. It was one of the first blockbuster hits on both the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network digital distribution models, scoring critical praise unlike any other console downloadable before it. It also arguably opened the floodgates for the proliferation of retro-styled games and HD remakes: more and more publishers are digging up their buried treasure and giving it a spit-shine worthy of the HD era, and just as many are building new experiences from old foundations.

It goes without saying that the company that spawned hundreds of Mega Man games would return to a good thing, so I'm a little surprised it's taken over two years for Capcom to follow up the original retro re-do. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is not quite the talk of the town in the same way the groundbreaking original (erm, original remake) was, but I've been looking forward to it since it was announced at last year's Captivate event. I'm rarely one to complain about getting more of the same, especially when it's as distinguished and polished as BCR was.

Some will cry foul at "Rad" Spencer's newfound ability to jump (gasp!), but it hardly appears to be the game-changer than many feared. Capcom has even affirmed that the game can be completed without ever taking a hop. I think I'll put that claim to the test for some of this first hour.

PS3 owners beware: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 employs a type of DRM that requires you to start the game while connected to PlayStation Network. Inconvenient for a game that is played almost entirely offline.

Minute by Minute

00 - New Game. After the heroic first adventure of "Rad" Spencer, bionic technology revolutionized infantry warfare. The world was at peace for a time, but things started going south when the country of Papagaya threatened a missile attack, led by General Sabio, a brilliant engineer who created a robotic army.

01 - The FSA (good guys) sent a battalion led by Colonel Brubaker. The FSA soon lost contact with Brubaker and his entire army unit. Whoever is narrating this (Super Joe?) sent a team of five bionic soldiers to investigate.

02 - A helicopter flies over the sea. The bionic soldiers inside make a few wisecracks at each other and argue about the gravity of the mission. First objective: fight your way to Brubaker's men, then fight alongside them. Second objective: disarm Sabio's missiles. The bionic soldiers drop out of the helicopter in pairs, except the last one: "Rad" Spencer. "Damn rookies." His mustache is fierce and commanding, yet affable and welcoming.

03 - Map screen. First stage is Puerto Calao. Highlighting the stage shows your best completion time, your friends' best completion time, the world's best completion time, how many secrets found, extra lives obtained, Yashichis found, completed with/without jumping, completed in co-op mode, hardest difficulty played, and completed with "prestige." Looks like there's plenty of options here to scale your challenge and exploration needs, then.

04 - Apparently I have "Bio-vision," which works like scanning in Metroid Prime. I'm told to scan an intel station nearby. The game pauses and screen turns green, with scannable items in red. This intel station gives me the basics on the controls (movement with D-pad or control stick). Scanning bosses will give me tips on their weak points.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Vision

05 - Time to play around with the controls! X jumps. Square shoots the revolver, which has infinite ammo and no limit on shots on-screen. Circle shoots the bionic arm. Spencer's movements are similar to the first game, but the controls are different. For instance, you have to press the jump button to unhook from a surface instead of just holding forward through the swing. Interesting change...

06 - Spencer's jump is very small, hardly enough to really help with platforming. It is nice that I can climb on top of barrels instead of having to swing through them, though. Pressing Up enters doors. I enter "Real de Juego, Sabio's Preferidos Casino." There's some kind of collectable puzzle piece in here. Got it. Probably should have scanned it to see what it was.

07 - There are switches that I can trigger by hitting them with my arm. The bionic one. This switch opens a shutter ahead.

08 - Explosions in the background on the beach. Guess the other bionic commandos have met the enemy? There are blue, solid barrels and red explosive barrels. An enemy takes cover behind a blue one, and shoots over the top. I can shoot my bionic arm forward (down and circle) to stop the bullets.

09 - When latched onto a barrel, I can pull myself toward it or pull it back to me, at which point I can walk around with it and toss it. Now climbing up a series of outdoor speakers up a dilapidated building.

10 - Shooting up some more bad guys...they drop health when killed. I can climb up boxes and pull myself up ledges with the jump. That's helpful.

11 - These blocks down here look fragile...can I break them? Not with what I have now, apparently. A truck pulls up from the background, and an enemy hops out, taking cover behind a barrel. Nearby, I found a grenade launcher! Apparently it's an Active Upgrade rather than a switchable weapon. With it equipped, pressing triangle shoots a grenade from Spencer's shoulder-mounted launcher.

12 - The grenade destroys the series of fragile blocks, revealing a door inside. It's a pretty narrow indoor area. Oops! Apparently this little ditch in the floor is electrified. I stay in it a bit too long and die.

13 - Started not too far back from where I was. Hmm, that enemy dropped a yellow bullet symbol. Apparently these are ammo pickups. Maybe my other weapons have limited ammo? I don't think that was the case in the first BCR, but I might be wrong.

14 - Found a fragile-looking wall. A scan says that it could be taken out with a bazooka...guess I'll have to come back later to get whatever's in there.

15 - Found a health regeneration upgrade. Apparently this is a Passive Upgrade. I can equip one Active and one Passive upgrade at a time. I come across a small trail of bad guys, and roll a barrel through them all.

16 - There's an old generator here...I destroy it, and that triggers a huge barge to drop into the water, forming a bridge for me to cross.

17 - Still swinging, climbing, shooting...

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Swing

18 - I swing up a trail of speakers, leading upwards. This seems to lead the same way as a path below. Maybe one is the preferred path for speed-runners?

19 - I use my grenade launcher to explode another trail of fragile boxes. There's a mechanical lever in here. If I hang onto it, Spencer's weight pulls it down and opens a shutter ahead.

20 - Heading to the right, the shutter closes behind me. Another one is ahead of me. I'm getting Mega Man vibe, here...

21 - There's a HUGE guy in the area ahead. "What do they put in your cereals?" asks Spencer. "I don't eat cereal," he replies, "I eat muesli!" And the fight begins. Shooting him appears to do nothing. He has a small minigun, I have to jump over or duck under his shots.

22 - If I get too close, he knifes me. I use the lampposts nearby to swing into him, knocking him over. I unload some shots at him. Apparently my rapid-fire is pretty fast, because he's already dead. "Welcome to Papagaya Island" trophy earned.

23 - Instead of heading forward to finish the stage, I backtrack a bit and explore the area before the boss. There's a Yashichi in this area...some tricky swings lead me to it. I don't think it does anything, just a collectable to find and grab.

24 - Found a fuse box. Apparently I'll need an electrical arm upgrade or a certain weapon to use this. I'm at the end of the stage now. One of the other bionic commandos radios in. Through the static, Spencer can figure out that one of them is dead. The surviving bionic is terrified, and apparently something is hunting them. Predator!?

25 - Stage complete! Hagle Breaker found. Cycle weapons using L1 and R1. I get a recording of my time and a summary of the stuff I collected, whether or not I jumped, etc. Map screen, next stage is Fort Arturo. Let's try this stage without jumping!

26 - This area appears to be some kind of ferny area, outside the port I just came from. It transitions into a more military base-looking area. I am greeted by some enemies and swing to a higher vantage point. I have already jumped, instinctively. Damn it.

27 - More shooting, swinging, jumping, rolling barrels at people...

28 - Ooh, a little robot enemy! It rolls explosives at me. Trying to avoid them, I jump off the edge...and right into the water, where I sink. Oops. I can't really tell how many lives I have left, the life counter is inside the health bar. And it's very tiny.

29 - This time, I hang on the ledge above the robot, and drop grenades onto it from my launcher. Time to move forward.

30 - I head into a door, into a silent challenge room. I have to swing up across a rising ceiling to get ahead. One of the parts of the ceiling can't be grabbed onto, either.

31 - I head back outside...I'm pretty sure this is not far from where I went in, even though I traveled pretty far inside...?

32 - Found a new upgrade, "Death From Above." When falling, I can press down and jump to pound the ground as I land. This destroys fragile blocks and damages enemies. It also looks pretty badass, with Spencer screaming on the way down.

33 - Ooh, I can slide down walls! Kind of like Mega Man X. That's neat.

34 - Still making my way through this industrial base...sliding under low ceilings by using barrels on the other side.

35 - Maybe I'm just used to the first game at this point, but the stage design seems pretty easy so far. I remember having a very hard time after the first stage in the first Rearmed.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Blocks

36 - More shooting, sliding, jumping, swinging...

37 - Oh yeah, I forgot I got another weapon at the end of the first stage. It appears to be a shotgun, and I have eight shots with it. Guess I gotta keep getting ammo to keep it refilled. I destroy a robot ahead with it and the robot drops ammo. Convenient.

38 - There's a signpost here. Does that mean a boss is ahead?

39 - Spencer attempts to contact Brubaker through the radio. Brubaker says there's a scrambler dish jamming communications. Before he can tell Spencer his location, General Sabio interrupts and taunts Spencer. Level complete! Didn't find any secrets...

40 - Map screen. Next stage is The Mighty Jungle. Okay, this time I won't jump at all! As the name suggests, it's a stage full of tree branches to swing through and some waterfalls as well.

41 - Damn it, I hate having to swing over barrels instead of just hopping over them. Angered, I grab the explosive barrel and throw it at an enemy ahead on the bridge. The bridge was destroyed! Too bad I was already swinging toward it...I'm dead.

42 - After I restart, I notice the bridge is still destroyed. That makes things a bit tougher...I swing over the gap and climb up the side of a waterfall ahead.

43 - There's a stack of barrels in my way here...I can't pull the bottom one out, so I scatter them with a grenade instead. Found a new Active Upgrade, the Uppercut. I equip it in lieu of my grenade launcher. It is as it sounds, an uppercut with that hulking metal arm. It uses my whole Ability Gauge, which slowly refills.

44 - I try uppercutting a couple barrels ahead...and they barely budge. What's the point when I can just grab it and toss it just as far?

45 - Hmm, there's a little electrical beartrap on the ground. Would be nice if I could just jump over it...

46 - Damn it, I'm jumping. The temptation is just too much for me. Unfortunately, Spencer's tiny jump doesn't even make it over the trap, and half of my life bar is taken away.

47 - Now that I've broken the seal, I'm just going go jump around as much as I want and explore this big waterfall area.

48 - There are plenty of paths leading through this waterfall, at varying heights. Hmm, a Yashichi is in this area over here...I have to go to a higher area, fall down, grab onto a branch, then swing toward it. Unfortunately, I can't find the path backwards...whatever, let's just keep going.

49 - Still climbing up this waterfall area. Killed a guy by falling down onto him with my Death From Above move. That felt cool.

50 - There are a series of shutters ahead...not sure what the point of some of them are, I can go around them by using other paths.

51 - Hmm, now I see. Some of the doors need to be approached from another path. I'd have to go back outside this cave area and come in to get some pickups.

52 - I've found some kind of sniper tower. As I enter it, a reticle appears on-screen. I can move it around the screen and pick off bad guys from far away. This feels kind of least there's a range limit to it.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Sniping

53 - Now I'm heading through some big red warehouse area. In the middle of the jungle. There appear to be some sentry towers nearby, but nobody inside.

54 - Ack, fell into a huge chasm. I didn't see that there was no ground below. Time to regain the ground I lost.

55 - I swing up to a lever, and pull it down. It releases a bunch of logs, which take out some buildings ahead. Their roofs line up perfectly to make a bridge across the chasm. Didn't see that coming.

56 - There's a small area I can sneak a grenade into from my breaks a chain of fragile blocks, but I'm too big to fit in the opening anyway.

57 - Oh well, keep going. There's a boss ahead, some sort of refrigerator-looking robot. Spencer asks if it has a beer for him.

58 - Shooting it appears to do nothing. Same with the grenades. How do I make it vulnerable? Before I can think of anything, it starts rolling grenades and shooting three-shot bursts at me. I have to grab onto lights above to avoid the attacks.

59 - I'm stumped. Let's try scanning it..."Creative use of bionics may reveal some kind of weak spot." I guess I should try latching onto it?

60 - I grab onto its chest plating and pull backwards, exposing its inner weak spot. Some rapid fire shots quickly take it out. The Mighty Jungle, complete!

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Branch
First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 4

What I liked

New Tricks for the Old School
: The original BCR stayed very faithful to the NES classic, with only a few minor alterations to the core gameplay. The sequel isn't afraid to throw in some fresh ideas and tweak things around a bit. The jumps, wall-slides, passive and active abilities are all welcome in my book.

Video: I was a big fan of the 2008 game's oversaturated colors and sidescrolling 3D objects, and BCR2 looks similar. I think there's more detail and and the colors are more subdued, however. I'm a big fan of the art style used in the character portraits as well, though they're infrequently seen. 

Audio: Again, the first game's chiptune-inspired musical style returns with new arrangements. I approve. 

: Plenty of time is spent swinging around the environments, either taking out enemy soldiers or maneuvering through hazards. Exploration is encouraged, as weapon upgrades and other pickups are scattered about. It's a pretty standard 2D shooter/platformer with a hook that makes it feel special.

What I didn't like

You got your Reboot in my Remake
: In the game's intro, a few characters and organizations introduced in the 3D Bionic Commando reboot for PS3 and 360 are seen. The narrative in Rearmed 2 is in line with its prequel's humorous tone, but I'm of the mind that Capcom should stay as far away from the gritty "new" Bionic Commando as possible. 

There's something strange about this place...
: I can't put my bionic finger on it, but something about the level design feels less exciting than the first Rearmed. Maybe it's all the shutters that need to be opened? It's also possible that the stages are fine, but I'm just not as impressed as the first time around. I don't know. Something about the game just seems a little off right now...

Other thoughts

: Playing on Normal mode, I found that three or four hits from enemies was enough to kill Spencer, but each enemy drops a health pickup when killed. Similar to the original, BCR2's challenge manifests in swinging safely and avoiding pits and environmental hazards. Bosses provide some mild mental stimulation as well as a test of battle prowess.

Controls: The controls have been revamped. Those who are used to the original XBLA/PSN title will have a brief adjusting period to the new scheme. However, I think the setup in BCR2 makes more sense and will probably be easier to learn for those who have no prior experience with the series.

Would I keep jumping? I don't know that I have much of a choice. It just comes so naturally and feels like a definite improvement over the first game, I instinctively kept doing it. Still, it's nice to know there's a challenge available for those who prefer lead feet.

Would I keep playing? Yes. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2's welcome tweaks don't quite excuse it from merely being more of the same, but it's not like Capcom is beating a dead horse here. Not yet, anyway.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Stache