Tech News on G4
Two remakes and an original
Sept 15, 2008
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Two remakes and an original
For gamers, summer usually means several months of lackluster titles, or a complete lack of games altogether. Thankfully, with every major home console currently embracing inexpensive downloadable games, and plenty of developers eager to take advantage of this opportunity to show their wares, gamers are the biggest winners.
Here is a trio of games available on Xbox Live Arcade, at least one of which is bound to make the time until the holiday gaming season seem a little shorter.
1942: Joint Strike
The Capcom remake '1942: Joint Strike' should not be a good game. Then again, the original '1942' should not have been a good game. But despite everything on the contrary, 'Joint Strike' is a fun, albeit short downloadable title for the Xbox Live Arcade.
Despite fancy HD graphics, fantastic new bosses and a few other goodies, 'JS' plays very much like an old-school top-down shooter. For instance, gamers will need to make sure their thumbs are in tip-top shape, as there is no auto-fire feature here. A lot of the game also deals with simple memorization, remembering what enemies appear where, and when, or the best way to take out bosses.
Though the control scheme in 'Joint Strike' is a little more advanced than that of the two-button original, it's still dead simple to learn. Most of the time you'll be simply shooting with your basic weapon and dodging, but you also get a limited number of homing missiles and bombs that will take out every enemy on the screen. You can also pick up alternate primary weapons which can be powered up up to three times, by accumulating the same weapon three times in succession.
While the original game would drag on over a seemingly endless number of similar levels, the remake has been shortened significantly to five levels, each with its own massive boss. The replayability factor isn't through the roof here, but it can be an addictive game. There are no continues, so every time you run out of lives, you'll have to start right back at the beginning of stage one. The stubborn gamer will not want to put 'Joint Strike' down.
Like just about any Capcom title, this also isn't an easy game and there's very little hand-holding. There are four difficulty levels, the only difference between them being the amount of lives you start off with. The first level is manageable, but things ramp up nonstop starting in level two, with the screen constantly filling up with enemies and bullets.
Online co-op and leaderboards give 'Joint Strike' some extra legs, but this one may be only for the hardcore shooter lover. It's a strong effort, but feels somewhat limited even by downloadable game standards.
1942 Joint Strike
Rating: 6 / 10
With Braid, the Xbox 360 lays claim to one of the most original downloadable games to come out on any system this generation. Braid looks like a classic sidescroller in the vein of Super Mario Bros., but plays like a true head-scratchin' puzzler with a strong emphasis on time manipulation. It isn't perfect, but it when it's good, it's VERY good.
In Braid, you control a young red-haired lad who has to acquire several puzzle pieces throughout the game's six levels. Each level has several rooms, and each room has at least one puzzle piece (if not several more). What makes Braid so original and interesting is that though the entire game is based on time manipulation, each level has a different set of rules the player has to abide by.
For instance, in one level you may have the ability to simply reverse time at will, so if you need to perfect a jump, you can repeat the jump over and over again until you get it right. Later on though, when you reverse time, a shadow of your character will appear, mimicking the moves you made since you last reversed time. You'll have to work together with this shadow to get through the level, acquiring each and every puzzle piece.
Braid is definitely not for the easily-frustrated gamer. It tends to throw rules in at will, with little or no explanation, making it almost unfair. There were times when I was halfway through a level without a full grasp on what exactly my newfound powers were. That being said, half the fun of Braid is starting each level and playing around with your new time manipulation power.
Another reason Braid is worth so much attention is that the game has an absolutely fantastic art style and soundtrack. While running through each level, it looks as if you're running through a painting; close your eyes, and you could meditate to any one of the game's music tracks. Simply amazing!
Braid is well worth the Microsoft Points it costs. Though pays homage to a few choice old-school games, and though we've seen the time-manipulation thing before, it hasn't been done like this. Braid is chalk-full of great level design and challenging gameplay that will have most gamers going back until every last puzzle piece is found.
Rating: 8 / 10
Bionic Commando Rearmed
As gamers gear up for the nu-Bionic Commando for next-gen systems in 2009, Capcom decided to treat its retro-lovin' fans with a remake of the Nintendo classic, 'Bionic Commando'.
'Bionic Commando: Rearmed' stays very true to the original game, right down to the frustrating controls and steep learning curve. At the same time, it's a game that gives a true sense of accomplishment the longer you play. Keep at it, and it will reward you.
For the uninitiated, 'Rearmed' is a high-definition version of the side scrolling platformer that first appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. You control Nathan 'R.A.D.' Spencer, who is tasked with infiltrating several enemy bases to find and retrieve a captured agent.
Though at first glance 'Rearmed' looks like your typical sidescroller, you'll learn soon enough that there's one important action missing from this game that appears in almost every platformer - jumping. Moving from platform to platform requires the use of your bionic arm, which allows you to swing like some kind of Spider-Man.
Just like the original, swinging isn't 100% user-friendly, and it's not a matter of simply pressing a button and latching onto something. You'll have to aim (forward, diagonal, up), pull yourself up, swing in different directions and do all other sorts of acrobatic moves, all the while fighting with controls that aren't completely intuitive, on a controller whose D-pad leaves a little something to be desired.
It takes some practice, but progression isn't impossible in 'Rearmed'. And when you're not swinging away, you'll be doing plenty of shooting and bombing of enemies that are crawling throughout each level. Computer-hacking minigames can be found in each level, gaining you access to in-game hints and powerups.
'Rearmed' falters slightly in a few spots, namely when it comes to traversing the top-down map, as well as when gaining access to new areas. The top-down map is taken straight out of the original, with you controlling a helicopter across a grid of numbered squares. It's not a matter of simply moving left, right, up or down though. In addition, you're tasked with finding coloured key cards to get to new levels, but even the game itself mentions how tedious it is doing this. If it's that tedious - why do it?
As frustrating as the game can be, it does provide some genuine laughs thanks to the hilarious script. There is next to no spoken dialogue in 'Rearmed', but even reading what enemies have to say to each other or seeing Spencer trash talk a boss never gets old.
The game doesn't skimp in other ways either. There's a new co-op mode, multiplayer offering, and challenge stages that you can attempt over and over again without the fear of your game ending. Your best times are automatically uploaded to an online leaderboard where you can see how you stack up worldwide.
Bionic Commando: Rearmed may not make a ton of new fans, but just about everyone who played the original will love this game to pieces. It's very different from a lot of games out there today and though it misses in some ways, most of the time it hits the bullseye.
Bionic Commando Rearmed
Rating: 7 / 10
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