Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando

Put bluntly, Bionic Commando is a game revolving around the mechanics related to swinging around the landscape, and I would hold that one’s enjoyment of this game is very dependent on how fun one can find this and for how long. It looks fairly good and has some well-planned levels and a decent difficulty curve, but the mechanics revolving around the bionic arm seems to have been central to everything and the thing most of the work was put into. As it turns out, this was enough to make a good game.

While not very varied, the thrill of swinging around the landscape and the fluidity of using an array of different attacks to dispatch enemies is a really pleasant experience which was lucky because while Bionic Commando was developed by Grin, it feels very much like a Capcom game – traditional and unforgiving. Savepoints are sparse and reckless movement of the kind the game encourages often ends in immediate death, but I usually didn’t mind that much as you were allowed a lot of freedom in tackling the obstacles meaning you could just play it in a different manner if you hit a wall or got bored.

Which is also the big weakness of the game, the only real variation you are offered is the one you create for yourself. Sure, the levels look different but – with a few notable exceptions – play essentially the same, which is an easy pit to fall into when making a game about a superhero. If you gimp the superpower it may turn gimmick-y and worthless, but if you make it too powerful – like BC – it makes the player near-invincible and her biggest enemies are her own mistakes and whatever cheap tricks you use, instead of interesting level design or clever enemies. In a sense, Bionic Commando feels like a sandbox game with levels, but without the freedom that comes with sandbox games or the interesting areas to explore you can grow tired of it pretty quickly.

Another thing that Grin seems to have gotten from Capcom is the very cheesy story and narrative. No surprises there, really, but maybe it is the commercially-minded part of me growing too big but the dialogue is very littered with swearing for a game that is otherwise pretty clean – I never understand what people hope to achieve with this. There is certainly a place for obscenities in great art, but sprinkling a juvenile story with them does not make it more adult.

Bionic Commando is a little too long to be enjoyable all the way through, but it is good fun for awhile. I heard it didn’t sell very well, and it would really be a shame if this means we won’t see any sequels – there is more to be done with the Bionic Arm, and Grin has demonstrated that they are capable of making levels with alternative gameplay – they just need to either ramp that up or make a real sandbox game.

Posted on Jun 29/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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GGA09 and other memories


I again was honored to help judge the Gotland Game Awards a couple of days back, and in many ways it was a return to core values. The event itself was more about the students than last year, with almost no projects coming from other places than the GAME educations, and the games in general seemed to focus more on interesting gameplay mechanics and only added innovative input mechanics if it seemed like a good idea, instead of the other way around. The event itself was grander, but it still felt more focused and of higher-quality – I give both the students and the teachers and administration credit for this. The only real beef I do have with it was with some of the teams claiming to want a “pure experience” by avoiding powerups or progression in their gameplay – if you intentionally make your game less interesting, you’d better have something incredibly interesting to begin with.

Also, on an unrelated note, it seems David Eddings passed away. It was long ago now that I quit reading his books, long ago when the lack of challenging stories and annoyingly smug presentation became too much for it to be worthwhile. Still, I read the entire Belgariad and the Malloreon some 6 or 7 times each in my youth and I can’t deny the attraction they held for me then or the possible effects that might have had on my development as a person. People have claimed he made fantasy accessible to the world, and that is a worthy achievement indeed.

Posted on Jun 07/09 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, Meta-blog | No Comments »

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Into the Pixel 2009


Another year, more great concepts. I would say the scenes and characters where somewhat more interesting this year as opposed to the large, sweeping terrain images I usually fall for, but there are great backdrops as well.

Posted on Jun 04/09 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »