Bionic Commando / GO! 1987
Screenshots: play/stop

Take on the role of the Bionic Commando Super Joe in Go!'s conversion of the classic CapCom arcade game (also known as Top Secret in Japan). Armed with a gun and a bionic arm, you have to infiltrate the enemy base, ultimately meeting the evil Generaland destroying him.

The game itself is based over five levels – The Jungle, The Outer Wall, The Sewers/Bio-Lab, The Central Base and The Power Core, and each level takes up a large area that scrolls with your character as you navigate around the area.

Navigation is made by moving Super Joe left and right on platforms, shooting or avoiding enemies along the way. Usually, however, you have to also climb your way up a level, or swing over obstacles. This is where your bionic arm comes into play! Basically, you extend the arm so that it grabs a platform that is above you. Then you can detract your arm to move up to the platform you've grabbed. Or, you can swing on your extended arm and then detach it. A well-timed detach will let you swing over a gap in the floor or another obstacle.

Your bionic arm can also stun certain enemies by merely extending it in their direction, or by swinging into them while your arm is extended. They will stumble and fall, stunned for a few seconds which is enough to make your escape or – if you're in a vindictive mood – blast them with your gun.

Also along the way are power-ups which will be parachuted in from your allies. You basically shoot or knock the power-up with your bionic arm to detach it from its parachute. Then, when it's landed on a platform, run up to it or grab it with your bionic arm to power-up. Power-ups can be merely extra points or, more importantly, weapon and arm upgrades. Arm upgrades will make your arm extend longer, or faster, or both. Weapon upgrades will kill certain enemies with less shots.

Get the hang on using your arm to climb and swing, because you will become more and more reliant on it! Certain obstacles will definitely need that well-timed swing over a hole to progress further.

As stated earlier, there are enemies who seem intent on stopping you from killing their evil General. Such enemies are normal foot soliders who fire at you, big mean soliders who also have bionic arms (who will need multiple shots to kill, unless you get a weapons upgrade), kamikaze soldiers (who have dynamite strapped to their backs), mini-copters dropping bombs on you, mutant birds who swoop in on you and soldiers in big mechanoids who will stomp all over you. There are also inanimate objects like beehives and electrified cages, and cannons that fire at you if you are caught in their search lights.

The Commodore 64 conversion of Bionic Commando is arguably one of the best arcade conversions made. The graphics, although not as hi-res as the arcade game's, are bright, well-defined and colourful. The sound by Tim Follin is an excellent pastiche on the original, too. Where the arcade's music starts to scratch a bit because of it using a YM chip, Follin's SID version starts off by copying the arcade music, and then going into "Follin Country" and doing his own thing – which adds rather than detracts from the game. There are no sound effects, but this is more than made up by the music.

There are a couple of minor niggles, and these are only minor: the first is that the screen scrolling is only at one speed, so you can sometimes find yourself near the edge of the screen, hoping that an enemy doesn't creep up on you before the screen scrolls enough for you to see what's ahead. The arcade version accelerated the scroll so that you were quickly back in the center of the screen.

The other slight disadvantage is because of the so-called "agreed standard" of the joystick with only one button, that all the computers and consoles used in those days. The arcade version had separate buttons for firing your weapon and using your bionic arm, whereas the C64 version has had to combine the two into the one fire button. However, the programmers have done an excellent job in making this intuitive, and you have to move your joystick up or down while firing to extend your arm – otherwise you'll just fire.

In essence, Go! have done a bang-on job of converting the arcade game onto the most popular home computer of all time. An excellent mix of platform, shoot'em up and strategy rolled into one action-packed game.

Reviewed by Boz.

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