Bionic Surfer

2D platformers have been around almost as long as videogames themselves so it’s often hard to get excited when a new one comes out.  Fortunately this is where Bionic Surfer from Robert Casperson comes in, proving there’s always a way to innovate no matter how old the genre.

The backstory is that for the last 6 months aliens from the parallel dimension known as ‘kaon space’ have been invading Earth and several other ‘offworld’ human colonies, apparently locking onto the free energy signatures of kaon crystals we’ve been using (for what purpose you don’t yet know).  You take the role of Bionic Surfer, who wakes up with a bad case of who/what/where and a mysterious figure known only as ‘The General’ inhabiting his subconscious and directing him to save humanity.

BS  has 9 weapons to find and five worlds to explore with 4 levels each, though notably the 4th isn’t so much a level as a boss fight.  You can upgrade BS in 3 ways as you collect Kaon crystals: health, attack and speed.  The graphics and music in this game are outstanding.  Never mind that this is an indie title, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better production values from any of the ‘big names’ out there.   The graphics in particular feature ragdoll phsyics on all objects, transparency, particle effects; heck the foliage even sways as BS runs past.  The one thing that’s a little weak visually but in a way actually adds to the ‘indie charm’ of the game is that the animation of BS himself is quite stilted, as if he’s running around with a 2×4 sticking out of his board shorts.

BS opens up the ancient and revered chest of surefire platformer conventions, takes a little bit of everything and even adds to it.  You’ve got your jumping puzzles, hidden switches to activate doors/platforms/pathways, superjump pads, reflective surfaces to ricochet weapon fire, almost sonicthehedgehog-like ’surf platforms’, low gravity areas, conveyor-type pathways, teleporters…there really is a lot of neat gameplay packed in here, perhaps the sardine can of 2D platformers!  One of the coolest elements is the grav gun which lets you move solid objects around to gain access to areas, kill baddies etc.  Another neat feature is the ability to zoom out and ‘freeshoot’ which gives the game an almost FPS-like quality.  In fact the only downfall to this massive quantity of fun stuff is that there’s not enough of each in the game and some may get the feeling that so and so feature should have been more fleshed out (namely the grav gun).

Threre’s otherwise nothing wrong with this solid game so the gripes and suggestions list is small.

  • There’s a checkpoint save system and a quicksave if you exit with the home button.  Couldn’t recreate this at will but a few times I just mysteriously lost my checkpoint save altogether.  Fortunately this was very infrequent.
  • Odd how much the ragdoll feature is touted in the adcopy but ingame it has no notable effect on gameplay and is actually quite subtle overall.
  • It’s fairly awkward to have a whole extra button at the bottom of the screen to ‘activate’ stuff.  Seems this could just as easily have been accomplished with simple proximity (the ‘i’ dialogues) or the jump button (teleporters and springboards).  Point being removing the ‘A’ button would free up some real estate and unclog the controls a bit, namely allowing the ‘freeshoot’ button to be moved down so all controls are in 1 neat row along the bottom.

So what you have here is a fresh take on the 2D platformer genre with a well-written, actually interesting story to follow along with as you play.  Great graphics/sound/music are the icing on the cake.  Highly recommended!

version reviewed – 1.0
reviewed on – iPhone 3G 8GB 2.2.1
screen flip support – no
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iTunes music support – yes

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