Isn't it funny how the best coin-op conversions aren't necessarily the ones converted from blockbusting arcade games. Take Konami's Combat School, a rather neat variation on the HyperSports theme which surprisingly bombed in the arcades but made a very good C64 game when converted by Imagine last year. Not so mega arcade licences like Sega's Out Run, or even Space Harrier, which didn't come across too well, though the less said about these the letter.
Capcom's Bionic Commandos is the latest example that even the most mediocre coin-op can make a decent home computer game. It barely made a ripple in the ocean of new arcade machines when released earlier this year, although it did attract a cult following. This ace conversion contains all the playability of the original, thanks to the talents of Steven Ruddy, the Software Creations programmer who made such an excellent job of Taito's Bubble Bobble for Firebird. It also marks the long overdue arrival of Go!, and makes up for their previous disasters, Side Arms in particular.
Bionic Commandos is a fairly hackneyed blend of platform and shooting action, with one big innovative feature that makes it stand out from the crowd. And that's the Bionic bit. The commando in question has a rather nifty telescopic arm with a grappling hook on the end, and this can be used - well, like a telescopic arm with a grappling hook on the end really. You can swing from platforms, biff the bad guys and generally do all the cool things one would expect of an extendable arm [Pick someone else's nose? - Ed].
You start by parachuting into a forest with the objective of infiltrating the enemy base to deactivate their missiles. This involves negotiating five multi-directional scrolling levels jam-packed with armed soldiers and an assortment of other odd adversaries. You have 200 seconds to reach the exit on each level - failure to do so results in the loss of a life, and you have to start the level from scratch. The first stage, entitled Danger! Keep Out! sees you swinging from tree to tree, shooting enemy soldiers and avoiding killer bees, birds and spiky plants. Stage Two is the Forefront, a large fort occupied by more nasty soldiers, along with cannons and fat crate-throwing geezers.
Infiltration is the name of the third stage, in which you meet little green gremlins which nibble away at the pipework, causing chunks to fall and endangering your life.
The fourth stage is the Control Tower, with large barriers to pass, a lift to ride, and bomb-dropping choppers and robotic hoppers to shoot or avoid. Further into the level there are huge robots to pass, which is made difficult by their stomping feet. The fifth and final section features even more soldiers to do battle with, as you attempt to Stop The Missile.
Useful equipment is dropped by parachute at certain points along the way, and is collected by shooting or knocking off the parachute and then picking it up - either by running over it or using your arm (much posier). Extra firepower is usually conveyed, although you can pick up a device which speeds up your arm momentarily.
The worst thing about this conversion is the graphics. As you can see, they're not too clear, and at times they're a bit of a mess. It's a shame they aren't up to the same standard as the rest of the package, as their crudeness could put you off what is basically one of the most playable games I've seen in a long while. There's a different soundtrack on each level to enhance the atmosphere and invigorate the soul, although some are very odd in places. The title music is also first class.
Whether you're a fan of the coin-op or not, this super conversion of Bionic Commandos should keep you entertained for the money. I'm not too sure about its lasting interest as there are only five sections and it may not take too long to crack, but even so it's great fun and a damn sight better than previous Go! releases. Thank heavens they're started to produce some decent software. Hopefully Black Tiger will be of a similar high quality.