Reviews// Bionic Commando

... a perfectly decent NES game...

Posted 21 May 2009 16:33 by
There have been many electrons spilled on the Internet about the 2009 version of Bionic Commando being the first true sequel to the classic NES game of the same name. And while it is certainly a sequel to that game, it is possible that some people are confusing "old" with "classic". Sure, it's 20 years since Bionic Commando first appeared. But I have spent the vast majority of those 20 years professionally involved in video gaming, and a good deal of that time waxing lyrical about great games passed. And in all that time I have never met a single person who has told me that the game they most lovingly remember, or most dearly want to see remade, is Bionic Commando.

Don't jump to the conclusion that I'm all hating on it and stuff, because that's simply not true. I acknowledge and accept that Bionic Commando was a perfectly decent NES game that was wheeled out as a perfectly good Game Boy game, revamped as a perfectly good XBLA game, and has now been fully slap-bang-up-to-dated as what is a perfectly decent PS3/360/Windows game. I'm just suggesting that the idea that it is part of some much-loved long-lost classic franchise possibly owes as much to the pink lensed glasses of nostalgia as it does to the opto-positivist overdrive of marketing.

The Bionic Commando game itself is an action-adventure-platformer, and the first game in the series to be rendered in full 3D. The factor that differentiates this game from most other 3D action-adventures is that the main method of getting around the environment is swinging using the lead character (Nathan 'RAD' Spencer's) extending grappling arm. Clearly, this creates a Spider-Man-like swinging motion, which is why I said 'differentiates from "most"' and not 'all' action-platformers. There is a noticeable similarity to Spider-Man, but it is only ostensible, since the actual control mechanic and character capabilities differ somewhat from that game.

Bionic Commando commences with some expositional cut scenes that explain the usual tedious and irrelevant video game narrative. This time, in Running Man style, the good and just Nat 'Rad' Spencer has spent 10 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, and has become a poster boy for the vilification of bionic technology as a whole. After this fascinating information is imparted (yes, you can skip the cut scene) NatRad is bundled into a missile and shot into enemy territory. His bionic arm is bundled into an entirely separate missile, and delivered in the same manner. And thus the adventure begins - with a game of hunt the arm. I'd like to say that if I was going to be jettisoned unceremoniously (but not particularly discreetly) behind enemy lines and I had one physical characteristic that significantly increased my kill factor, I'd want it firmly attached before I volunteered to become the human payload of a missile.
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