The first title in this 2D HD remake of the 80s game was a game I desperately wanted to enjoy. Alas, it’s old-school reluctance to move with the times ultimately made it a relationship that was doomed from the start.
I am of course referring to the lack of a jump button. Nathan Spencer solely relied on the use of the grappling hook on his bionic arm to swing around the levels and climb up platforms. True to the original it may have been but it was also frustrating, unforgiving and clunky.
Thankfully the new developers, Fatshark AB (taking over from GRIN) have eased off the retro-grog a little and thrown a jump button into the game. Before the hardcore amongst you start whining about ‘bloody kids not knowing they’re born’ and all that, relax, it’s still a tough bastard of a game that is heavily reliant on the grappling mechanics.
You are now regularly required to make precise running jumps onto narrow platforms and often combine these jumps with well-timed, but late, grapple swings. The grapple fires upwards and diagonally at a 45 degree angle by default, but it doesn’t reach far, meaning precision is everything. Vertical and horizontal grapples are still in, the former being useful for quickly climbing up platforms.
When holding on underneath a platform you can shoot, or climb up onto it, or lower yourself down on a cable and then swing until you have enough momentum to make your next jump. Most of these sections, require the starting point of these jumps to be exact, otherwise you will fall to your death. Usually a quicksandy one, unless you manage to find another grappling point and pull yourself out in time.
The hook can also be used in combat. You can pull enemies towards you and then throw them off a ledge. More useful though is the ability to grab the barrels the gits hide behind, and lob it back at them. Naturally it’s more fun when it’s an explosive red one. Or you can opt for a good old fashioned uppercut which is pretty damn effective against skinny infantry grunts, less so against giant mechs. Firing the hook horizontally is still a bit awkward as it often fires diagonally instead. Getting it to stick to barrels can sometimes be a bit hit and miss too.
There are plenty of guns this time around, but the game is definitely still mainly a platforming title. The standard pistol is supported, by bouncy grenades, shotguns and rockets. Some of these can also be used to break weaker sections of wall. Failing that you can always lob an explosive barrel at them.
You’re never inundated with enemies as the game prefers to add a bit of craftiness and ideas of self-preservation to them rather than throw hordes of them at you like a Metal Slug game. They take a few hits to kill and will often take cover to evade incoming fire. If you swing into an enemy soldier you will still get hurt and knocked back, ruining many a plan to get onto a ledge. It’s annoying in an old-school way, but it’s part of the challenge of the game that players will be able to get used to and enjoy.
The levels on display showed off the well-designed, varying environments of jungles, snow pummelled power-stations and Mediterranean-esque small town docks. All of which were packed with platforms to swing around on, with many a treacherous hole below. While the levels I played were traditional left to right side-scrollers, there were plenty of little areas to try and climb to, to find enhancement items.
The aim of each level was fairly similar, reach the other side and take out the enemy soldiers on your way. They had similar habits throughout, such as hiding behind barrels and waiting to pump lead into you as soon as you swing into view. Swinging around an area to outmanoeuvre enemy soldiers will once again play a large part in the game.
One of the boss fights on show today was against a human foe who was twice as tall as Spencer. Armoured all over, heavily armed and likely to take a ‘two-more-of-those-you’re-f*****d’ swing at you when you dawdled around him. This should have been a tough fight, but it turned out all you needed to do was pull his mask off with the grappling hook and blast away, and repeat twice again. Not exactly the platforming challenge of the bigger bosses like this trailer for Megacopter boss shows.