You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, they say, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel for the first half an hour or so here. Bizarrely, this retro-styled platformer doesn’t have a jump button, forcing you to rely on the titular appendage to negotiate baddie-infested levels. Initially it’s jarring not to be able to shin over a knee-high crate, but once you get the hang of swinging and grappling, it feels as natural as traditional leaping. More importantly, it’s hugely fun to sail across the level like a ginger, flat-topped Tarzan and shotgun neon Nazis in the face.
It helps that BCR is styled exactly as a retro remake should be. Vibrant 3D visuals set it apart from the gritty monotony of many contemporary releases and the only-slightly-modernised chip music adds to the nostalgic flavour. Features impossible on the 8-bit NES have been added for enjoyment’s sake, notably the single/split screen two-player campaign co-op and four-player adversarial multiplayer modes. The result is a slick and, given that it’s download only, surprisingly complete platformer. The spirit of nightmarishly difficult ’80s arcade games still rears its head. BCR is a tough nut to crack, and reintroduces the concept of a limited number of lives in an era that’s increasingly mollycoddling players with recharging energy bars and overzealous autosaving. Not only do you have a meagre three punts at blasting through a level, but you have to deal with a boss encounter that requires you to figure out a specific technique and execute it perfectly on the same budget of lives. Not a game for the easily frustrated.
If you’re up for the challenge, there’s plenty to do outside of the already reasonably sized campaign. Much of the replay value comes from a series of puzzle style ‘simulation’ missions, bite-sized challenges that test your abilities against the clock. Perfect for obsessive compulsive play, while inclusion of world ranking leaderboards for these virtual reality missions ensures you’ll never be truly satisfied either. Once you’re done with the single player modes, if you can persuade some chums to huddle around the monitor, the competitive multiplayer is a blast as well, if a little cramped. Only in one area do things go terribly awry: the top-down Enemy Encounter missions are always a chore. The aiming is imprecise, the level layouts are ugly and repetitive and act simply as a punishment for clumsy negotiation of the world map rather than a satisfying change of pace. At least as distractions they’re relatively brief.
BCR is at once beautifully reminiscent of its era, and polished enough to be palatable to a modern audience. The core grappling and swinging mechanic is satisfying, the weapons a joy to wield and the levels are imaginatively designed. It may have started life as a promotional tool for Capcom’s upcoming third-person shooter, but if anything, BCR proves that the traditional 2D platformer is still relevant even for PC gaming’s current generation.
Aug 19, 2008