Title  : Bionic Commando
Platforms  : Game Boy Color only
Publisher  : Capcom
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 8.1
Review by  : Ken Gagne

A year ago, I reviewed Shadowgate Classic, an old Nintendo game ported to the then-new Game Boy Color. Today, the reviving of old games for a new system is one that shows no signs of showing down. Fortunately, this trend gives a new lease on life to classics that would otherwise be forgotten. Such is the case with Bionic Commando, from Capcom. 

After many long years, the battle between peaceful country of Karinia and the evil Avars is nearing a climax. Arturus, leader of the Avars, has uncovered an ancient and powerful weapon called the Albatross Project. It is up to Karinia's elite forces, the Bionic Commandos, to infiltrate the enemy's territory and stop Arturus' plans. 

Bionic Commando is an entirely new action title in the style of the 1988 NES game of the same name. In this sequel, players take control of a male or female soldier. The gimmick is that these heroes cannot jump; instead, they must overcome the various obstacles they encounter through use of a bionic grappling arm. Amid the Indiana Jones action are a variety of settings to explore, and powerful foes to defeat. 

The levels are numbered and laid out on a map, where players can choose which area to move to next. En-route encounters with enemy patrols result in overhead skirmishes, similar to another old Capcom game, Commando. These areas earn players extra lives, while finishing the numbered levels grant inventory items, be it weapons, armor, or spy equipment. 

The game difficulty starts low, but gets heated quickly. The levels are fairly straightforward, but toss several hurdles at the players. Amazing series of timed swings are necessary to move from platform to platform. The bosses require as much ingenuity to defeat as they do firepower. Rushing in, firing blind? Might as well sign your own death warrant. 

Fortunately, the game can be more forgiving than it was twelve years ago. Progress can be saved before entering any level, or at any of the comm rooms within the levels. (there are three save slots, so several players can share one cartridge) Equipment can also be swapped at these rooms, so if you came in carrying the wrong decoder, you needn't start the level from scratch. 

The graphics are not as detailed as the original NES game. However, they do move more quickly, with the commandos swinging quickly back and forth, tumbling through platforms, and saving the day. The earth tones used to color the backgrounds could be more distinct; for example, confusing a dirt floor from a bottomless pit can be a common and lethal mistake. 

Music is standard for both the genre and the platform. A few digitized speech samples are tossed in for good measure, but there's nothing outstanding. The sound effects of the soldier's assault rifle and grappling arm are more noticeable. 

Thanks to the ability to save one's game, Bionic Commando is fun to pick up, play for a level or two, then put away. The mix of agility and strength necessary to win is an example of classic gaming done right, while still being a new adventure, separate from the original Bionic Commando. Fans of the original will find both enjoyment and challenge in this handheld game.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 13-Mar-00