In Bionic Commando Rearmed, the remake of a 20-year-old Nintendo game, an aviator-shades-wearing badass named Nathan "R.A.D." Spencer takes on a hyperbolic task: rescuing someone named Super Joe and preventing the resurrection of Hitler. Spencer literally has a trick up his sleeve: He has a bionic arm that lets him deflect enemy bullets—and more importantly, swing through the game like a futuristic Tarzan.
Rearmed is a meticulously crafted homage to its 8-bit source material, complete with old-school side-scrolling gameplay and a MIDI-keyboard-focused soundtrack. The idea is to swing to the upper echelons of each level, dispatching enemies along the way. Early stages feature relatively weak human enemies, but later stages are populated with heavily armored robots.
The opening levels are simple to navigate, but later on, expect to string together near-miraculous arm-swinging feats that would make a spider monkey jealous. Sweaty palms are guaranteed. Naturally, in true 8-bit fashion, each stage is punctuated with an old-school boss battle; victory requires you to suss out the bosses' weak point.
Rearmed is most interesting when it breaks free of its source material. Example: An early stage takes place inside a dark cave, which you can only navigate by backing out of the level and retrieving a flare. During these moments, the game begins to take on an organic life of its own.
Beyond the game: Once the credits roll, there are still more than 50 Challenge Rooms to work through by getting from point A to point B in a set amount of time.
Worth playing for: Mastering the bionic arm, which initially makes for an awkward, frustrating hour or two. But once the controls become second nature, seemingly impassable points in the game can be breezed through.
Frustration sets in when: Without a jump button—an unfortunate homage to the original—Spencer drops like a stone if he steps off a ledge.
Final judgment: Bionic Commando Rearmed is a nostalgia-inducing remake that does itself a disservice by being a bit too beholden to its source. Fans old enough to remember the original will appreciate the game most.