Have You Played… Bionic Dues?

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.

26 Comments

  1. raiders says:

    No, I haven’t played it. Got it for free last month (remember that) but haven’t had time to open it up. I might do it soon though. My favorite games are drying up lately. Bugs are making Space Engineers virtually unplayable and a memory leak crash in Wasteland 2 DC has caused that game to come to a screeching halt until they release the announced patch & PC hotfix. Thanks for reminding me I had this. :)

    • vahnn says:

      Definitely play it, it’s a phenomenal game for 5 bucks. For free it’s even better.

      • TheLetterM says:

        I would also point out the for a long time, Bionic Dues was almost always in some bundle or other at any given time. The pace has slowed down, but it’s been in two in the past month. Indiegala and maybe other sites love to give out free keys to it as well. Very likely you can snag it for cheap if you track this sort of thing.

  2. MajesticXII says:

    Probably not going to play this but I’ll definitely be listening to the trailer theme. <3

  3. Shadow says:

    Bionic Dues has Arcen’s trademark lackluster art, and while the game isn’t bad, it’s not the kind which particularly entices you to beat it more than once.

  4. Villephox says:

    I can’t have been the only one to have read this as “Bionic Dudes.”

  5. Vacuity729 says:

    One win in a hundred? You don’t actually have to play at Misery difficulty, you know?

    Bionic Dues is a lot of fun. I didn’t try it ’til a while after I bought it, but once I tried it out I was hooked until I beat it once. I think at this point I’ve beaten it a half-dozen times and it’s always fun and challenging. Actually, that’s not true; sometimes, with the right opponents and equipment, some missions are surprisingly easy, but considering how hard each campaign is as a whole, I really welcome those moments of respite.

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      Adam Smith says:

      I am both rubbish and prone to exaggeration.

      • pepperfez says:

        –every honest commenter on the internet

      • Vacuity729 says:

        I refuse to believe that.

        I believe that Adam is a gaming genius whose only tactical failing is a determination to complete games on the hardest difficulty levels available, with extra challenge provided by self-incurred rules, like “play with a blindfold on,” or “play with the game set to randomly remap the keyboard keys after each and every press.”

        And you still win one in one hundred games! I prostrate myself in awe!

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I usually find it pretty difficult on Hard. Once on Normal, however, I did so well that the final mission consisted of seven enemy bots and no bosses. That was entertaining. I still have the screenie to prove it.

  6. mouton says:

    Loved it, but the lackluster environment (Liked the bots!) and weirdly balanced difficulty levels (though they did some balance patching) severely reduce the game’s replayability.

    Loot is okay, it should be much worse, considering they are not Blizzard with two hundred employees working in the Loot Department.

  7. RedViv says:

    I really love it. Extraordinarily much for a Rogue-ish-ish-ish game that I only played through four or five times.

  8. Geebs says:

    Arden have this strange thing where the person who does the graphics is just good enough to make the game look worse than it would if they couldn’t draw at all.

    • EhexT says:

      See also their visually best game AI War (still awful but it doesn’t hurt as much since most of the playtime all you’re seeing is icons anyway), which would actually look pretty good and cohesive if they had stuck with JUST the Tyrian 2000 sprites. But they mixed it with their own art which is drawn in a completely different style that makes the whole thing much worse than the sum of it’s parts.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Their visually best game is The Last Federation, by miles. And it’s beautiful.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I came here to say something similar, and you summed it up better than I could have.

      I mean, God knows half the games in my library are janky little lo-fi indie things. That look can be quite charming. The problem with Bionic Dues is that it tries to be better than all that, and fails completely. If the artist(s) had played to their strengths instead of letting reach exceed grasp, it would have looked much better.

      I keep reading about Bionic Dues and thinking it sounds like precisely my thing, and then I look at a screenshot and go “Oh. Right. That.” and go do something else. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try anyway, but it’s hard to get over the hump.

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    Hodge says:

    I just opened Steam, and not only do I own this but I apparently played it for five minutes and unlocked three achievements. I have no recollection of any of this.

  10. ribby says:

    Wow. Just listen to that trailer music! Good stuff

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      zapatapon says:

      I suppose you are ironic. It’s remarkable how much Arcen’s games are truly unique. The graphics and, in this case, music, are uniquely godawful, while the gameplay is uniquely fresh and innovative .

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    demosthenes777 says:

    This is one of my favorite rogue-ish-isms of the past 5 years or so, and always good for a good time-waster for 30-40 mins (which often ends up turning into 3-4 hrs before I even notice).

    One thing to keep in mind (that I often don’t): you don’t have to win every battle to keep going, and sometimes it is better if you don’t. Like any good rogue-like you can often progress more from a loss or a death than a win.

  12. Kaeoschassis says:

    Well, the internet ate this comment last time, let’s try again.

    Yes, yes I have. It’s one of the greatest gaming surprises I’ve had in years, and was actually my first introduction to Arcen. I’ve since ended up owning most of their stuff. It also holds the record for the fastest I’ve ever gone from “Learning this exists” to “trying the demo” to “owning the game”.

    Your point about it being hard to nail into a genre is spot-on though. At first it SEEMS like a roguelike or a party-based rpg but if you go into it with those expectations you’re probably going to be initially disappointed. It’s definitely better to look at it as its own thing.