Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann
I rather suspected when I saw a demo of this a month or two back, that Bionic Commando would be a li'l bit special. And it is. In fact, it's six million dollars worth (Groan. Ed).
I wasn't feeling too good in myself when I loaded it up this morning. A man barely alive, in fact. But we can re-build him. We have the technology. He'll be better stronger faster. And after an hour of battering away at this, I was a new man, I can tell you.
Bionic Commando is yet another of Go!'s Capcom licences, and by now you'll probably have sussed out that it's a notably successful one. Inspired by Karnov's revolt into colour, it's as multi-hued a game as you could hope to see. The plot, as ever, is totally daft, but the basic idea is to climb up through the screens to the top of each level, using your bionic arm to help you up from tree to tree, platform to platform and so on, I say bionic arm, but what you really have is more like a set of Lazy Tongs, those telescopic scissory things that your gran always uses to pick up pieces of paper off the floor. I mean, were not exactly talking Robocop here.
So instead of platforms and ladders we have platforms and Lazy Tongs. You move up by extending your arm, connecting it to the branch/platform above. and pulling yourself up. You can also do this diagonally, whereupon you swing backwards and forwards on your 'arm' until you pull yourself up. Naturally there are enemy guards everywhere to shoot, as well as rather more powerful adversaries, who vary from level to level. There are five levels in all (which load separately on 48K), but unlike other games, these really are five different levels - not just the same level over and over again with different backgrounds.
What's more it's all very last and highly playable. Screens scroll both vertically and horizontally, and so smoothly in both directions that you never think of the playing area as anything other than one vast landscape. I haven't explored it fully but it seems fairly colossal, so should you go the wrong way by mistake, there are all sorts of appalling hazards to keep you from getting back onto the right course. There's a time limit, which should keep you on your toes, and while there's no 'correct' route as such, there are better routes than others. On each level, there are particular nasties that need to be shot before you can move on up, as Curtis Mayfield would say. I shan't say which, but make sure you dispose of anything particularly monkey-shaped, or indeed anyone that looks much like a Nazi general in a bad WWII fillum (Gott in Himmel!).
So how can we label it? Shoot 'em up? Arcade adventure? Platform and ladders? in truth, it's a little of each (master of compromise, that's me). The gameplay's rather faster than yer average platformer and there are certainly zapping elements amundo. But whatever it is, it's certainly a thoroughly recommended and enjoyable coin-op conversion - still something of a rarity in Speccy circles. What really sets Bionic Commando apart is its genuine arcade feel, and much of this has to do with its detailed and colourful graphics. Somehow, converters Software Creations (of Sentinel fame), have managed to recapture the rhythm of the original, and as we all know that's more unusual than a good single by Bros. But this is no nice-graphics-shame-about-the-game. Bionic Commando plays just as good as it looks, and as you can see by the screenshots, that's darn tootin'.
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