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Dumb It Down – Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Dumb It Down – Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Word of warning: this blog won’t have much of a point and will more than likely contradict itself halfway through. “Just like all your other blogs!” you’re probably thinking, laughing to yourself with the knowing satisfaction of a man who has landed a ZING right on Play’s nose. Quiet you.

This blog has come about because I played Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 last night and… well. Some context first. If you haven’t followed it too closely, it’s the sequel to the surprise PSN hit that emerged when Scandinavian studio Grin decided to freshen up crusty NES classic Bionic Commando for modern times. Two things stood out about Bionic Commando Rearmed – it looked like a modern game while keeping its retro charm intact and it was essentially a platformer that didn’t have a jump button. Instead, you had to learn how to use your bionic arm to grapple hook around the place. Bloody hard to get the hang of but when you did figure it out and everything clicked, it was magic.

So back to Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. It has a jump button. OH NO. This news had the internet up in (non-bionic) arms, as they bitched and they moaned and they cried and they bitched some more. While Bionic Commando Rearmed bucked the easier-is-better trend that’s swept through gaming, the sequel had apparently succumbed to it. Given Rearmed’s strength was that the lack of a jump button forced you into learning the grapple hook and therefore uncover the unique appeal of that game, the internet had deduced (in a roundabout way that was expressed by fury, multiple exclamation marks and spelling things incorrectly rather than logic) that Rearmed 2 would therefore not have any sort of unique appeal.


Yet Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is… kind of the same. It has a jump button that makes things easier, sure. Yet it’s hardly a 100-foot leap that completes the game for you and doesn’t boot the sequel’s platforming into Bubsy The Bobcat territory. Rearmed 2 also tells you in the post-level stats screen whether you actually used the jump button or not, throwing enough grapple hook points about that you don’t ever have to jump. You could argue that concessions have been made in the overall level design to accomodate said jump button for ‘casual’ players, who likely wouldn’t have the patience to persist with a game that was as bastard tough as Bionic Commando Rearmed, but there are enough secrets dotted throughout along with that particular stats screen to provide challenge if that’s what fans are after.

Point is, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 isn’t dumbed down. Not really. It’s not quite as fun, because having that jump button does dilute Bionic Commando’s biggest strength, but the effect it has on the actual gameplay isn’t nearly as significant as those angry fists pounding keyboards into dust across the internet would suggest. No surprises there. But then this leads onto a bigger question – why bother having a jump button in the first place, then? There are no doubt Men In Suits behind the scenes, highlighting reviews of Bionic Commando Rearmed that used the words ‘bastard hard’, ‘bloody hard’ and ‘f****ing hard’ before worrying that the wallets of casual players weren’t being opened for a game that’s initially awkward and alienating. Pie charts were probably shown, ‘risk management’ was presumably said, fingers were almost definitely jabbed into boardroom tables to make a point.

Capcom did the same thing with Mega Man 10 and its Easy Mode but just as casual players ignored that, would those same people have ever have bought Rearmed 2 regardless of what it did? It’s designed as a retro game. Retro games are hard. I’m guessing people who bought Bionic Commando Rearmed did so because it was tough and a throwback to Ye Olde Times without having to make the necessary compromises with involved with an actual retro game such as graphics, sound, password save systems, lack of online leaderboards or whatever. That jump button doesn’t ruin Rearmed 2 but rather than draw a new crowd in, all it’s done is piss the old crowd off. And that’s before they’ve even played it.

Not as cool now, probably due to the geography teacher moustache.

As for the game itself, I don’t really know what to make of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. It’s not as good as its predecessor for various reasons – the surprise is gone, the bosses aren’t as inventive, any clever moments feel like retread of Rearmed 1, the characters aren’t quite as cool. It doesn’t do anything wrong, which includes throwing a jump button into the mix. It just doesn’t do quite enough right to stir our collective gaming crotches in the same way Bionic Commando Rearmed did when it stormed out of leftfield.

So this isn’t a review but again, this blog doesn’t really have a point and therefore I can’t arrive at any cute conclusion, except that Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 isn’t the dumbed down tripe internet fury would have you believe. Even so, better I blog about a videogame than blog about the nightmare I had a few nights ago involving a giant burning plane, eh? Or maybe not. Still, too late now. Whoops.