Bionic Commando

by Andrew R. Threlfall, Mike Follin, Tim Follin
Crash Issue 53, Jun 1988   page(s) 18,19

Producer: Go!
Retail Price: £8.99 cassette, £12.99 disk
Author: Software Creations from a Capcom coin-op

Fresh from the arcades, our bionic commando is all set to make history on the Spectrum. Complete with his superhuman grappling arm, he must negotiate dangerous enemy territory in order to infiltrate the opposition's base and deactivate its missiles.

The mission takes place over five levels of four-way scrolling terrain. Each stage is timed and must be completed within 200 units. The environment, which ranges from the jungle, via a fort, a complex of pipes and control tower, to the missile centre itself, consists of a network of platforms patrolled by a host of vigilant enemy soldiers. The player parachutes into the forest and attempts to make his way up, along and across these platforms using his bionic arm - a telescopic extension with a grappling hook at the end. This clips on to nearby branches and enables the intrepid commando to swing gracefully from tree to tree.

Enemy soldiers can be struck with the all-purpose bionic arm or shot using a gun. Extra equipment (firepower or faster arm movement) is airlifted in and can be collected by shooting or grappling down the parachute from which it is suspended. Should he get shot before he has a chance to retaliate, or fall into a bottomless pit, the commando loses one of his four bionic lives.

Each level has its own particular hazards: killer bees and deadly plants in the jungle, missile-belching cannons in the fort, nasty green gremlins chewing away at the pipework and bomb-dropping helicopters in the control tower. A series of huge foot-stamping robots bars the way into the final level of confrontation.

A status strip at the base of the screen shows score, weapon presently being used, number of lives left, high score, current level and time remaining.


Joystick: Cursor, Sinclair, Kempston
Graphics: clever mix of colour and detail. Lots of variation
Sound: fantastic 128K throughout game. Atmospheric sound FX on 48K
Options: definable keys

At last, Bionic Commando on the Spectrum! Yes that's right ladies and gents, those kind people at GO! have converted one of the best arcade games around onto your computer - and it's not that bad either! The graphics are excellently drawn, especially on higher levels where you have to dive under massive fists and dodge giant feet. Amazingly the characters don't merge with the background to produce a blind blur: you can actually see them! Each stage has something more to offer in the shape of extra things to do and tougher enemies to beat, and each one is as addictive as the last. The 128K music is just fantastic with different tunes cropping up all the time. This sets the mood for the game well, and for a change you don't have to load more stages as you progress. On the 48K however, there are just sound effects and the usual frustrating multiload system that most games seem to have these days. Bionic Commando is a thoroughly enjoyable game, miss it and you're mad!
NICK [92%]

Bionic Commando is essentially a combination of platform game and shoot 'em up with a little exploration thrown in for good measure. What turns this mish-mash of ingredients into a glowing success is the concept of the bionic arm. Hurling your hook through the air and swinging with athletic poise from branch to branch is exhilarating, unusual and, above all, fun. Giant robots, killer bees, parachutes, choppers and fatal weeds ensure plenty of variety as you rush madly towards deactivation of the secret missile base. Each of the five timed levels is extremely challenging and designed to keep you going back for more. My only quibble regards the jerky scrolling; you can't always see ahead quite as far as you need to but in some ways this manages to contribute to the tension. Graphically, Bionic Commando is hardly spectacular but what it lacks in colour, it more than makes up for with its psychedelic 128K tune - it's different for every level and the best music I've ever heard on the Spectrum. Even without this extra bonus you have a highly addictive and playable game; try it and you'll buy it.
KATI [91%]

When I heard that GO! were going to transfer the massive arcade might of the Bionic Commando coin-op on to the Spectrum I laughed. But knock me over with a feather, those chaps at Software Creations (Bubble Bobble) have done a grand job. So it's no longer a two player game, who cares? Smart move on GO!'s part because EVERYONE will be wanting to get their hand on their new game. The best part of Bionic Commando has got to be the mechanical arm. Not only does it help you to reach out and avoid most confrontations, it also contains deadly fire power. Some may say the scrolling's a bit jerky, but that's only because it's terrifically fast - thus keeping the action coming at break-neck speed. With so much content you can't afford to miss GO!'s greatest game yet!
PAUL [92%]

Presentation: 84%
Graphics: 88%
Playability: 93%
Addictive Qualities: 92%
Overall: 92%

Summary: General Rating: The first successful conversion from the new GO!/Capcom deal. Let's hope it continues.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 31, Jul 1988   page(s) 68,69

Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann

I rather suspected when I saw a demo of this a month or two back, that Bionic Commando would be a li'l bit special. And it is. In fact, it's six million dollars worth (Groan. Ed).

I wasn't feeling too good in myself when I loaded it up this morning. A man barely alive, in fact. But we can re-build him. We have the technology. He'll be better stronger faster. And after an hour of battering away at this, I was a new man, I can tell you.

Bionic Commando is yet another of Go!'s Capcom licences, and by now you'll probably have sussed out that it's a notably successful one. Inspired by Karnov's revolt into colour, it's as multi-hued a game as you could hope to see. The plot, as ever, is totally daft, but the basic idea is to climb up through the screens to the top of each level, using your bionic arm to help you up from tree to tree, platform to platform and so on, I say bionic arm, but what you really have is more like a set of Lazy Tongs, those telescopic scissory things that your gran always uses to pick up pieces of paper off the floor. I mean, were not exactly talking Robocop here.

So instead of platforms and ladders we have platforms and Lazy Tongs. You move up by extending your arm, connecting it to the branch/platform above. and pulling yourself up. You can also do this diagonally, whereupon you swing backwards and forwards on your 'arm' until you pull yourself up. Naturally there are enemy guards everywhere to shoot, as well as rather more powerful adversaries, who vary from level to level. There are five levels in all (which load separately on 48K), but unlike other games, these really are five different levels - not just the same level over and over again with different backgrounds.

What's more it's all very last and highly playable. Screens scroll both vertically and horizontally, and so smoothly in both directions that you never think of the playing area as anything other than one vast landscape. I haven't explored it fully but it seems fairly colossal, so should you go the wrong way by mistake, there are all sorts of appalling hazards to keep you from getting back onto the right course. There's a time limit, which should keep you on your toes, and while there's no 'correct' route as such, there are better routes than others. On each level, there are particular nasties that need to be shot before you can move on up, as Curtis Mayfield would say. I shan't say which, but make sure you dispose of anything particularly monkey-shaped, or indeed anyone that looks much like a Nazi general in a bad WWII fillum (Gott in Himmel!).

So how can we label it? Shoot 'em up? Arcade adventure? Platform and ladders? in truth, it's a little of each (master of compromise, that's me). The gameplay's rather faster than yer average platformer and there are certainly zapping elements amundo. But whatever it is, it's certainly a thoroughly recommended and enjoyable coin-op conversion - still something of a rarity in Speccy circles. What really sets Bionic Commando apart is its genuine arcade feel, and much of this has to do with its detailed and colourful graphics. Somehow, converters Software Creations (of Sentinel fame), have managed to recapture the rhythm of the original, and as we all know that's more unusual than a good single by Bros. But this is no nice-graphics-shame-about-the-game. Bionic Commando plays just as good as it looks, and as you can see by the screenshots, that's darn tootin'.

Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: Excellent conversion of the Capcom coin-op (alliteration, or what?), which out-Karnov's even Karnov. Colourful, fast, fab.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 75, Jun 1988   page(s) 77

Label: Go!
Author: Software Creations
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Bionic Commandos, if first impressions are allowed to last, is a reasonably faithful conversion of the coin-op that just hasn't ended up being particularly playable, visually exciting or, well, interesting.

Sure, it looks reasonable, and there are a few nice touches, but it appears to be so poorly programmed - the graphics flicker like crazy - that most of the ideas seem to have been wasted.

There's no plot worth discussing. All you need to know is that you - a bionic commando - have to infiltrate an alien military establishment and destroy everything on the way.

B.C. is a variation on the platforms and ladders theme, except there aren't any ladders (What a crap analogy! Explain yourself - G.T.) The ladders have been removed and the platforms just hang in the air. The controls allow you to move left, right, up and down and fire. No jump. So how do you get up to the next level of girders/ earth/platform? Easy. You use your telescopic bionic arm like a lasso to cling on to the girders and winch yourself up.

The general idea is to work your way to the top of each level, shooting the bad guys and um, well that's it really. There's a fair number of aliens to bash. There are nasty little flicky things which lurk along the platforms and occasionally, chopping off your feet.

These, along with irritating little stormtroopers who jump around and shoot at you, form the main body of the alien army. As you progress deeper into alien territory (I always feel you should be going down in these games, don't you?) more bizarre foes appear. One of the most interesting is a kind of huge metal kangaroo with a tiny guy controlling it at the top. There are also enormous - and largely static - robots that you can scale, at your own risk.

The gameplay definitely improves as the game goes on. Parachutes fall from the sky bearing enhanced weaponry. As far as I could tell, the only effect collecting one of these items has is to make your bionic arm longer and faster. Once you've got a highly developed arm (no tittering at the back) things begin to hot up. You can cover large areas in seconds, and it has to be said there is an element of cartoon style action swinging on on a bionic arm like Tarzan on a vine and blasting away like Judge Dredd in a bad mood.

Don't be mislead into thinking the graphics are of cartoon quality. Although colour has been used to some effect, there are parts of scenery that are simply inexcusably poorly drawn - even unfinished looking. Huge areas of square white "stuff" at the top of some levels just look ridiculous. Everyone should know that you just can't get away with that sort of thing.

Your hero, a dwarfish black outline figure scuttles around satisfactorily, apart from the odd occasion when he develops an incredible case of the flickers. Control is tricky at times, and unless your joystick is very accurate, you'll have trouble using your arm in those vital diagonal directions. Since there is no "Extend arm" control, you have to combine left and up, right and up or use up alone to extend, which takes an awful lot of getting used to.

As well as having a limited supply of lives, you're racing against the clock too, so life is really quite difficult.

Bionic Commandos is a disappointment after the last Cap-com title, Streetfighter. It's fast and furious, but feels unpolished and is graphically simplistic. If you were a big fan of the arcade game, maybe this is one for you. It's not crap, but it certainly isn't what we've come to expect.

Overall: 7/10

Summary: Acceptable though unexciting conversion. Lots of nice points negated by lots of niggles.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 12, Sep 1988   page(s) 67

Go, £8.99cs
C64 version reviewed Issue 10 - ACE Rating 838

A good conversion of the arcade game that keeps the same pace and difficulty that was found in the C64 version. The graphics are obviously not as hot, but what they lose in terms of colour is made up for a bit in detail. The enemy have, if anything, become more difficult to deal with - making the game tougher. However, it has lost some of the immediate appeal that the C64 version had.

Ace Rating: 803/1000

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 82, Aug 1988   page(s) 63

MACHINES: Spectrum/CBM64/Amstrad/Atari ST/Amiga/IBM PC
PRICE: £8.99 Spec, £9.99 C64/Ams, £19.99 Atari ST/PC, £24.99 Amiga
VERSIONS TESTED: Commodore/Spectrum

Bionic Commando made a brief appearance in the arcades towards the end of last year before sinking without trace - a shame really; it's a neat little game.

Still, that hasn't stopped US Gold from converting it to just about every home micro available.

Chances are that you haven't seen the arcade game - it appeared in very few provincial arcades - so here's a quick precis of the scenario. The player takes control of said Bionic Commando and attempts a solo infiltration of a five-level enemy fortress. Each multi-directionally scrolling level consists of platforms and obstacles which the commando negotiates. The objective is to reach the top right of the landscape, whereupon a points bonus is awarded, and the next level loaded from tape.

The mission starts in a forest, and the commando climbs through the foliage using his bionic arm, an extendable metal limb which is shot at objects above the commando and then retracted to lift him upwards. Shooting the arm diagonally and then retracting it slightly causes the commando to swing Tarzan-style - ideal for crossing chasms or moving from one tree to another.

As the mission progresses, things get decidedly harder. Level two has the commando climbing up the walls of the fortress, ducking out of the way of cannonballs, deadly electronic forcefields and heavy boxes thrown down by soldiers in the battlements.

On level three the heroic commando enters the fortress and negotiates the hazard-filled sewage system inhabited by giant robots and soldiers in large mechanical fighting machines.

Although Bionic Commando is essentially a a platform game, it has enough neat touches to make it worthwhile. The extending arm is a brilliant idea which has been beautifully implemented; it really FEELS good, and swinging across gaps in the landscape is great fun. The action is frenetic throughout, with all manner of hazards to keep you on your toes. The graphics aren't outstanding; on both the Spectrum and Commodore the sprites are a little on the small size, but colour is used well, giving both games a generally pleasing look.

One thing that mustn't go unmentioned about the 64 version is its amazing soundtrack. Each level has it s own fabulous piece of music, varying from a whacky 70s-style cop them tune to a psychedelic mood piece. I thoroughly enjoyed Bionic Commando; is a tough, yet highly enjoyable arcade conversion and is well worth buying.

Every tune is outstanding, and surely must rank amongst the best tunes yet written for the Commodore.

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Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 5/10
Playability: 9/10
Value: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 9, Aug 1988   page(s) 49

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £8.99, Diskette: £14.99
Atari ST Diskette: £19.99


Our feature on page 92 points out that new Capcom coin-ops entering arcades later this year will have simultaneous computer conversions through GO!. Meanwhile, conversion of existing coin-ops continues with the release of the Spectrum and ST versions of Bionic Commandos, the all-action arcade game featuring those psychedelic soundtracks reviewed in TGM007 (Commodore 64/128, 88%.)

Bionic Commandos is a highly playable and generally well implemented conversion of a great (if not entirely successful) coin-op on both machines.

The ST game begins with some colourful background graphics, small, detailed characters and a speed of action befitting the coinop. With the advent of the second and third levels, the ST's colours are put to superb use, the rockface, platforms and brick walls really show what can be done with a 16-bit machine. Its tunes, given the lack of effectiveness in the ST's sound chip, are extremely well done, varied, lively and on par with those of the Commodore.

The Spectrum version comes a close second in musical entertainment, while not having the raw power of the Commodore game or the finesse of the ST, there are some excellent tunes. Spectrum characters, platforms and background graphics are limited to one colour, but Bionic Commandos remains a pleasant game to look at.

In both versions, gameplay is very similar, with the ST hardest because attacks by guards, birds and other foes are constant. The speed with which the commando moves on the Spectrum (much quicker than on the Commodore) is a definite benefit, resulting in an easier game to play but no less difficult to master. The Commodore's scrolling has been replaced by a flip-screen technique, which, while a little unsettling to look at, doesn't affect gameplay.

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Overall: 86%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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