We grapple, leap, and uppercut our way through this retro sequel.

Bionic Commando Rearmed played like a love letter to a bygone era of 8-bit platformers, adding a stylish coat of paint to a game whose overall structure felt firmly rooted in the 1980s. Of course, there was a perfectly good reason for that: Bionic Commando Rearmed was a remake of an NES classic. Rearmed 2, being a sequel to a remake, doesn’t have that same immediate connection to a decades-old predecessor. This has given Capcom and developer Fatshark the creative leeway to make some changes and additions to the original formula, several of which we’ve just had the chance to experience in the game’s latest hands-on demo.

The most noticeable one is your character’s ability to jump. Bionic Commando was a game that revolved around a grapple mechanic, having you run along and swing across gaps rather than leap over them. Grappling is still at the heart of the experience in Rearmed 2, but now you can move around in a way that feels, to put it simply, more natural. Levels are still designed in such a way that you’ll need to thoroughly master that grapple mechanic to get by, as well as seek out new weapons to unlock special sequestered goodies a la Metroid, so the addition of jump feels like less of a game changer and more of a slight breath of fresh air.

A number of new attack abilities are in store for players, as well. You can now do a sort of death-from-above attack when leaping from high platforms down to enemies below, which is also a mechanic that plays a role in progressing through puzzles whenever you’re trapped behind a stone wall. You can unlock a powerful uppercut ability that can instantly take care of weak enemies or let you quickly launch an explosive barrel at the tougher ones.

Like the original Rearmed, the sequel will have a cooperative multiplayer mode that allows two players to play simultaneously. You share lives and unlockables, and there’s no friendly fire, so there’s not much of a chance to grief your teammate. While the level design doesn’t change to require team-focused progression through puzzles, there are a number of enemy types that require you to work as a tight pair rather than let one person do all the work. You’ll have the chance to play it alone or with a friend when Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is released in early 2011.

By Shaun McInnis, Editor