Back on the PlayStation 2, we couldn’t get enough of adventurous platforming games, ones that defined what adventure could be introduced with the right development team. Even stuff that didn’t quite measure up to, say, Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon, like Vexx and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, did its part in fulfilling different journeys for players looking for them.
But that genre kind of faded off a little with the next generation of consoles, in favor of more mature games and shooters. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, but some players seeking the fantasy side of gaming didn’t have too much choice in this department. That’s why I’m happy to see a game like ReCore on Xbox One and Windows PC – it reminds us of these platforming games of old, while at the same time telling a pretty good story far off in the future.
The game puts you in control of Joule Adams, a survivor of a Far Eden colony who awakens to find that, well, she’s pretty much abandoned. However, she also feels compelled to resolve a mystery surrounding a robotic colony long left behind, so she loads up on her tools and calls upon her robot ally – starting with a faithful K9, and opening up others – as she picks up items throughout the world, and activates new dangers at almost every turn.
While the story may not be as fleshed out as older adventure games, it definitely has the right spirit in mind. ReCore, at times, almost reminded me of the opening to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with Joule taking on Rey’s scavenger role as she came face-to-face with danger, while still staying true to her cause – all while a faithful robot stayed by her side.
Over the course of her adventure, new weapons and abilities open up, allowing Joule better maneuverability in the world. Her rocket booster shoes already give her a helpful dash capability, ideal for reaching higher-up platforms or getting out of the way of an attacking robot enemy. The weapon system is pretty nifty too, as you can switch between different color types of ammo for particular enemies, then move in for the kill as you extract their core, playing a lethal game of tug-of-war to get it.
There are some parts of the combat that felt a little repetitive, like the extraction thing and having to face certain types of enemies over and over, but it still feels like a natural system, one that challenges with each new level you run across. Granted, it can take a little while to get there, since ReCore’s overall design is monstrous. That’s a good and bad thing.
I say good because the world that Comcept and Armature Studios have created is fascinating, with a bunch of technical marvels, weather conditions and little workshops – where Joule can upgrade her robot allies and swap them out as needed – that tell a story in their own right. However, for some, it can be a little too big, as sometimes you’ll need to backtrack or get the right robots for a mission, and that requires going all the way back to a start point, swapping out, and then returning to where you need to go. (A fast travel system would’ve been more convenient for something like this.)
Overall, though, the design of many of the puzzles within the game is challenging, yet hardly impossible. True, some scenarios reminded us of the more difficult platformers out there (looking at you, Zelda), requiring pitch-perfect timing to resolve – especially across long, bottomless chasms. That said, you’ll eventually figure out a solution and move on.
The main problem with the game is how long it takes to get started. With such immense worlds at bay, ReCore has hefty loading times, somewhere around at least 30 seconds or so before it gets started. Considering that Microsoft has handled loading times for its games pretty well in the past (like the zippy Sunset Overdrive – still a favorite), this could be a turn-off for some players. Hopefully it’ll get patched up so that it’s a bit more sufficient.
At least the presentation makes up for it. Despite the fact that the levels can be a little too large for their own good, they’re always dazzling in design. The enemies come to life in a very creative manner, and even your own robotic creations have a spark of their own, so to speak. Plus, Joule makes for a very convincing heroine – and quite agile, to boot. She could probably even teach Lara Croft a thing or two, particularly with those rocket boots.
I loved the sound design as well. The soundtrack for the game is very good, even if it doesn’t play as often as it should (some sequences are a little too quiet for their own good), and the sound effects are very cool, particularly your barking robotic mutt. You almost feel an attachment to him from the earlygoing. The atmospheric effects are fun, too – gotta love that sandstorm when it comes blowing in.
Had ReCore stuck with a more generalized level design – and maybe not so much on the hulking, overpowering world – and lightened up on its load times, it could’ve easily been an instant classic. That said, it’s still not bad, as Comcept and Armature have created a slightly frustrating but nevertheless entertaining romp that fans of old-school adventure will easily get into. It has its frustrations, but, hey, nobody ever said saving the world was easy. Just ask Vexx.