The game helpfully tells you how many attempts you've taken to best them, too: by the mid-teens we were averaging 30, occasionally spiking much higher. Instant restarts and the tantalising red glow of the finishing line brought us back time and again. Cross words will be spoken, but time-trial enthusiasts and admirers of twitchy physics games like RedLynx Trials 2: Second Edition and GripShift will lap it up, egged on by Achievements, Trophies (post-release on PSN) and their friends' best times. We'd probably adore this even if it didn't have an entire game strapped to its back.
It does though, and there's more to it than we've described so far. You can play it co-operatively with another player, the camera gradually drawing back if you're separated, and there's a local competitive multiplayer mode for up to four players where you swing and shoot one another in deathmatch and last-man-standing. There's even a don't-touch-the-floor mode where you have to try and knock your enemies to the ground like a sort of Monkey Gladiators. Sadly the multiplayer modes are offline-only (Capcom says they were added too far into development), but with the competitive offerings closer to something like Super Smash Bros. than Quake we can probably forgive this.
Elsewhere, the quality of graphics and audio belies the game's NES origins - and certainly throw a lot of Xbox Live Arcade's "graphical overhauls" into sharp, if not comic relief. Rich, saturated colours, amusing animations (enemies flop to the ground and then tumble Havok-style off the near side of a platform), gorgeous use of light and shadow - backed up by suitably retro sound effects and catchy music that Capcom liked so much it put out a CD (it's available on iTunes, too). The silly 8-bit plot gives the game away, but the comic-style 2D story and not-too-desperately self-referential writing saves the day - or can at least be skipped.
If we're to nitpick, the one thing that's likely to stop BCR swinging merrily to the top of the download best-sellers list is the difficulty level. On the default Medium setting you will struggle to complete levels culminating in a boss encounter on the first go, and mid-level checkpoints expire when you run out of lives, which doesn't take much, leaving you with a potentially gruelling mountain to rescale. Those who find the bionic arm takes longer to click can at least fall back on the Easy setting, but this is definitely Old Capcom, which is worth bearing in mind if you stumbled through New Super Mario Bros. or find yourself playing co-op with David Cameron.
Otherwise this is a deep, generous proposition we're likely to look upon favourably when the review comes around in a couple of weeks. Half the people in its XBLA and PSN target audience were more interested in conkers and kiss-chase when bionic arm first meant something, myself included, and these days we expect our 2D platform games - when we expect them at all - to have jump buttons, multi-directional firing, and difficulty curves that run their fingers gently through our hair rather than ripping it out in clumps. But BCR demonstrates that modern-day updates of revered '80s games needn't be cynical or regressive. Completing it may become a badge of honour now as it was then, but playing Bionic Commando Rearmed could well be essential.
Bionic Commando Rearmed is due out on 13th August on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.99) and on 14th August for PlayStation Network (GBP 6.99 / EUR 9.99).
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