Developer GRIN must be sick to death of the NES classic Bionic Commando by now. I doubt even the most obsessed fan has gone to the level of deconstructing and studying the game bit by bit the way these brave men and women have, in order to rebuild it from the ground up in 3D fashion, staying absolutely true to the game's roots while bringing it up to the modern console era.
It's a sharp looking game, with vivid colors granting a reprieve from the dreary monochromatic curse that's struck too many modern titles. The animation is intentionally a little stiff to match the 8bit original, though the richness of the lighting and effects cause this 2D sidescroller to pop out of the screen. There are very few XBLA games that aspire to this level of detail in every aspect of every level, from the shattering of glass while grabbing onto the light posts to Rad Spencer's nod when he's ready for action. The music is an awe inspiring retro remix of the original's songs that will burrow into your brain long after you put down the controller.
What's great is the special solutions for taking them down change while playing in co-op. What's not so great is the bosses repeat, but their patterns stay the same
There's no jump button. Get used to it. All of Rad's vertical travel is handled by his bionic arm, allowing him to swing over deadly pits, and reach up to surprise an unsuspecting soldier. Mastering where to grab and when to let go is an essential skill, especially for the tricky environments that show up later in the game. There's a tutorial to give you the basics, but if really want to build up your mastery, take on the challenge rooms. These are Metal Gear Solid inspired virtual simulations where true skill will not only clear the room, but give you a good rank on the online leaderboards. Speaking of extra content, there's a somewhat shallow but fun versus mode where you can blast and knock around up to three bionic friends, and the entire story mode can be played in two player co-op, easily splitting the screen when your buddy strays too far. It's a shame about the lack of online play for these modes, but what's a hero to do?
Though it's not all swinging. You start with a simple pistol, but progressing through the game will unlock a wide range of weapons, from the standard shotgun to a laser beam that bounces off walls. It actually becomes a bit cumbersome to scroll through these arms near the end, since certain situations almost demand the right weapon for the job. You can also flush out the baddies with a grenade or two. Mostly soldiers, some with guns, others with knives, a few with shields, assisted by the occasional bullet spitting turret or tank. Clear the path, swing through the funhouse of death, just to meet the big boss at the end of each area. What's great is the special solutions for taking them down change while playing in co-op. What's not so great is the bosses repeat, but their patterns stay the same, making them an easy takedown the second time around. Outposts grant you weapon upgrades and other aid, while running into a truck triggers a top down Commando style battle, which is great the first few times it happens, but really wears out its welcome before the end.
The only real problem with Rearmed is it remains a little too close to the original. The map is stubbornly difficult to navigate, the rooms you need to visit to unlock the boss's room feels like a pointless throwback, and the fact that each death sends you back to the last checkpoint feels fine until you reach the supremely difficult final levels, where lifebar or not, one wrong swing will cost you one life. It's bursting with content for the price, so if you can get used to the higher than usual challenge, and put up with the occasional moment of controller-snapping frustration, then apply for your own bionic arm today!