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 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 C64 version is its amazing soundtracks. Each level has its own fabulous piece of music, varying from a whacky '70s-style cop theme 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.