Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is the sequel to Bionic Commando Rearmed, which itself remake of the 1988 NES game.  Critics generally loved the original Rearmed.  It was well received by us as well.  So the sequel has big shoes to fill.  The question is whether this game was more than a mustache and a new hairdo; could it stand against the scrutiny of its predecessor?

Here’s what we liked:

Nathan Spencer swings again – Simply put the greatest reason to love this game is that it’s more Bionic Commando goodness.  It’s immediately familiar to fans of the series.  From Spencer’s sarcastic attitude to the death defying swings over a chasm, it’s all there.

New gameplay mechanics – Fanboys have oft criticized the ability to jump in the game, but its inclusion makes the game neither easier nor crippled.  Jumping feels very intuitive, and it isn’t significant enough height to be useful without the arm.  Other gameplay improvements have been made as well, such as the ability to climb on and over objects; no longer must a player swing around a barrel.  Also new are minigames where players can operate a sniper turret or man the machine gun of a helicopter.  These vary the gameplay and keep things fresh.

It looks greatRearmed was a pretty game, but the developers were limited to fans impressions from the original NES game.  As shiny as it looked they were still restricted by the color palettes of 1988.  Rearmed 2 has no such limitations, and it shows.  Everything about the environment is detailed and vibrant.  The game defines high definition for the 2.5D genre.

Interesting story – While it recycles a few points from the first Rearmed, players will find that this story is every bit as compelling.  The plot involves more characters, has a great twist, and ties in nicely to the 2009 3D Bionic Commando game.  The conversation art is also well done.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Frustrating arm mechanics – In some aspects the arm is a major improvement, in others it fails miserably.  The original “push a direction to release” mechanic is replaced with pressing the B button.  At first thought that might be helpful, but so often it simply leaves players releasing at the wrong time or by accident.  Extending the arm while running now extends it at an angle; in order to extend it straight out the player must push the control stick down and the direction they are running.  It seems more intuitive to have the player push up and the direction they are moving to have the arm extend at an angle.  Either way it differs too much from the first Rearmed and most players will find it frustrating.

Lacking in content – For the game’s 1200MSP price point it still doesn’t offer the amount of content the original had at 800MSP.  The number of challenge rooms had been limited to less than half of the original, and versus multiplayer is entirely absent from the game.  There are also no unlockables to speak of.  Players should have been able to unlock Rearmed 1 Spencer in both is player 1 and player 2 variants, Wilcox and McNamara (two of Spencer’s team of bionics) should have been unlockable as well.  Nothing is offered to the player to bring them back after completing the game aside from achievements.

Poor cooperative play – Coop in and of itself is not awful, but some of the best things from Rearmed coop have been removed or marred.  Gone is the on-the-fly splitscreen; now if one player disappears off screen they have merely a few seconds to reunite with the other player.  Gone are the coop-centered boss battles; the original forced the team to work together.  In Rearmed 2 it’s much easier to for each player to simply blast away at the boss.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is a great game in its own respect.  It just lacks some of the core things that gave the first Rearmed its strong appeal.  1200MSP will likely be too much of an asking price for most players, but the game is definitely a must-purchase should it be featured in any Xbox Live sales.  Until then most players will do well to wait.  Only hardcore Bionic Commando fans will feel the full asking price is worth it.

Score: Try It