While I’ve never played a Bionic Commando game, starting Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 felt more natural than just about any game I’ve started in the past year.  The game starts out at a comfortable pace, giving a basic tutorial and brief story outline while avoiding any unnecessary hand-holding.  From what I can gather, this sequel to a successful reboot aims to keep the Capcom downloadable gravy train rolling into 2011.

First off, BCR2 can be frustrating.  However, extra lives are available, if (like me) you have a hard time figuring out any of the puzzles and instead like to jump into lakes (fail). I actually have an issue with this; if I try to jump left while holding left, if I was swinging toward the right, even slightly, I would jump right (wtf!).  This frustrates me, not only because most of the games I play send me in the direction I’m going, but because every time I had to restart the level, this control scheme was partially to blame.

Playing on normal, I killed more enemies with either ammo refills or health hidden inside them than not.  This made it easy enough to get through the game without throwing any controllers at the wall, but sometimes it feels like it’s too easy.  Lacking challenge is one of the things that made me dislike this game some, because while I died several times, I never really felt like I had to put much effort into anything except for timing.  All the controls feel just ‘all right’ too – including the jumping . . . it’s a bit stiff and hard to control at times.  It’s impossible to control where you are once you’re in mid-air, so if you fall off a platform… you’re most likely screwed. Luckily, each level is started with a few lives, so it’s possible to start from checkpoints scattered throughout them if you happen to commit suicide.  But c’mon, this is a Capcom platformer – it’s not supposed to be that easy.

However, the music of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 almost makes up for its lack of difficulty. Before I even saw the opening menu, I fell in love with the sounds coming from my subwoofer. Each level contains beats that pound through the system and leave me wanting more. It actually reminds me of the TRON soundtrack – lots of bass to accompany lots of action. It’s the type where, if turned up loud enough, it almost feels like it’s creating heart palpitations. I don’t mind palpitations at all if they’re caused by someone’s success in making music I can physically feel.  Shyeah.

The level design in Bionic Commando is awe-inspiring.

The level design in BCR2 also deserves a special note. While most of the levels are similar lengths, around 10-20 minutes per level unless it’s one of the mini-levels, they have completely different color schemes and puzzles to solve.  The first few levels are easy to figure out, but toward the middle and end of the game, they become increasingly difficult. Some of the levels are vibrant, somewhat similar to Donkey Kong Country jungle levels, while others are dark and murky, with jagged edges and spike-filled pits,  placed perfectly for your demise.  There are industrial levels, underground levels, and some even in the snow. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 also has variances in gameplay, making it less dull and more gratifying.  Another feature is the ability to snipe, which I certainly appreciate.

One thing I do not appreciate as much about BCR2 is the lack of variation as far as enemies go.  For the first half of the game, there are about five types of enemies. The only difference in them is how they are placed and whether they do or don’t have additional armor on. If my foes had looked more like they belonged in their surroundings, this would have enhanced the environment instead of diminishing its credibility. Instead, these felt like the piranhas in Super Mario Bros. They just move up… and down… and have no real purpose except to get in the way sometimes.

The boss battles did not contrast with the levels as much, and were another plus to this game. While many platformers have bosses that you have to jump on, the bosses in Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 almost feel like levels in themselves. Before attacking them, it’s necessary to first figure out exactly how to attack them.  Some require different weapons, some require use of the bionic arm, others just need you to be quick about it.  After defeating a boss and completing each level, an upgrade is sometimes available, or perhaps just an overview of how you did.  Either way, the fights are satisfying and rewarding.

This is one of the earlier bosses...

Upgrades are also sometimes rewards for solving in-game puzzles. Whether it’s a grenade or an uppercut, the upgrades are evenly spaced enough that they keep you going at a particular pace. There are also puzzles that require specific upgrades to solve early on in the game, so they end up encouraging the player to make another run or two through those levels. Playing through the game out of order doesn’t make it any worse, either, which I would almost consider a bad thing since the story is so lackluster.  There is a story, but this story has been redone so many  times that it could be compared to an Angelina Jolie action movie.

This can be ignored if you focus on the replayability. Yes, the game gets dull after awhile, but even with the challenge rooms, co-op opportunities, and story-lacking levels, it’s possible to put probably twenty hours into it without feeling like it’s been overplayed. If you’re more competitive than most, the challenge rooms will be a welcome sight, since they allow you to post your scores to leaderboards and (hopefully) beat your friends. Being able to pwn your friends incessantly is always worth a few measly dollars. If you’re an achievement or trophy whore however, beware. The things expected of you in this game are more difficult than most downloadable games, especially with the quirky controls.  They could be more incentive for an additional playthrough, but only if you want to spend multiple tedious hours killing the same damn enemies.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is worth the purchase however, especially if you have someone to play it with, but without the real challenge or intrigue of most downloadable games coming out at this point, it falls a bit short of being great.

Here’s The Rundown:

+ Level Design
+ Music
+ Replayability
– Story
– Controls
– Boring and repetitive enemies

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 was developed by FatShark and published by Capcom.  It was released on February 1st and 2nd for PSN and XBLA respectively for $14.99 (1200 MS Points)  An XBLA download code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.  Dani beat the crap out of it.  She really liked the music.  She also liked Nathan’s mustache.