Retro: VC Weekly #189

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe's guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo's download service. Written by Sam C Gittins.

Any fan of traditional platformers would do well to check out this release as it does things a little differently but in all the right ways. Anyway enough from me and on with the game!

Available for download this week we have...

  • Bionic Commando

Price: GB �3.60, EU �4
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Released: 1992
System: GameBoy

Ask any gamer what the main element of a side-scrolling platformer would be, the answer would undoubtedly be jumping as it is a steadfast mechanic which has served the genre well for many years but what if you were to have such a game that didn't rely on such an important mechanic, instead using the 'grappling' mechanic for the entirety of the game? Well in this case you'd have Bionic Commando which does exactly that... set in a futuristic setting and playing as Rad Spencer you must use your swinging and shooting abilities to rescue your brother in arms Super Joe from an evil empire who are plotting a project that's codenamed 'Albatross' so naturally this isn't good news, Rad must save the day making for an average plot but this isn't where the game shines.

On an overworld you get to fly a helicopter to your stage of choice which can be either the main stages filled with enemies or neutral areas which basically feel like bonus stages as there are a fair few items which can be collected here which will no doubt aid you in your mission. Of course it's not that simple though because in this open area there are enemy choppers flying around which if you should come into contact with them this will trigger an encounter stage with is littered with enemies so it pays to take care when flying as whikle you have a reasonable amount of choice on where to go you don't want to get gunned down early-on so it pays to consider the risks before landing or taking on yet another fleet of enemy soldiers.

When you quite literally get into the swing of things in the main levels the game really shines but learning this mechanic is not without its trials, it will take you a good few tries before you really become accustomed to how it all works and even then you still need to judge the distance of each swing, where you plant the grappling hook plus where you're going to land so it keeps you in a constant thought process which is what separates it from its peers. Its unique challenge which constantly offers a feeling of reward that's never without risk will keep you soldiering on even if it is something of a steep learning curve; you have some smart pieces of kit at your disposal to as you must choose various support items before each mission so you may want to consult the virtual manual on this one as there is a lot to learn plus some may wish to make use of the VC Save State during sections which are sure to frustrate as the game is rather punishing at times which isn't helped in later stages especially by its lack of map, despite this it still plays well though.

Nicely detailed throughout Bionic Commando contains some very decent visuals which really stand out well alongside some slick animation helping to make this game look every bit the portable version of the home console classic definitely doing it justice. Audio is very well produced too with some very well-suited pieces of music fitting in well with the feel of each area along with some choice sound effects that always feel appropriate adding a great deal of immersion to the experience.

Very much worth downloading as the complete control overhaul is what makes the game, some may dislike the path that's been chosen for this portable outing but believe me if you end up falling for the brilliantly designed mechanics from the start then you're in for an absolute treat as there is nothing else which plays quite like this gem. You may have played platformers that are similar in style to this but certainly not in execution as Bionic Commando is a true original that breaks away from the conventions set by the original console game in favour of something that is faster, more frantic and above all just plain fun.

Verdict : A near perfect pick up and play platformer.

That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of the week and Game On!

Sam Gittins
[email protected]

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