Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Bionic Dues [official site] is yet another Arcen game that I initially bounced off so hard it might as well have been a trampoline attached to a giant spring riding a pogo stick. It’s a…roguelike mech game? No. It’s a puzzle game? No. It’s Bionic Dues.
It’s a top-down tactical game, that much is easy enough to establish. But everything else is just about as strange as can be.
You have customisable mechs, a group of them in various classes, but you can (and indeed must) swap them out during a single mission. Essentially, the classes are stances or modes that you switch between rather than independent entities.
And then there are the enemies. They’re defined by their glitches. Each type, and there are over 40, has specific strengths and weaknesses. The strengths might be tough armour or unique weapons; the weaknesses are buggy programming. To defeat them and to survive against the overwhelming odds facing you, it’s necessary to exploit those bugs and glitches.
Scrappy and scruffy, Bionic Dues throws so much procedural junk at you that it’s hard to see the intricate quality of the game underneath. But what a game it is. Every move counts and a successful run contains as much drama and suspense as a Hitchcock marathon. Almost every time, I’m fooled into thinking I need to rush – everything feels like an emergency, with enemies swarming and traps blinking into life – but Bionic Dues is best played slowly, deliberately and carefully. It’s almost always possible to get out alive but I’ll be damned if I manage it more than once in a hundred attempts.