“From the mind behind Mighty No 9” isn’t a great way to advertise your game, but it would certainly be accurate in this case. It would be kinder (and wiser, if you’re trying to sell something) to concentrate on the fact that Keiji Inafune is The Mega Man Guy. In much more encouraging news, some of the team behind the thoroughly excellent Metroid Prime are also responsible for development; but Recore shows its combination of development teams in the wrong way, by having old-fashioned fun butt heads with old-fashioned frustration.
This is a story of one man and his dog. Only the man is a woman. And it’s a robot dog. And also there’s a robot ape, a robot spider, and a robot... thing that flies. Look, basically it’s a desert planet where all the people have disappeared and the animal-themed robots that are supposed to help terraform it have turned evil and all wish to kill you.
Well, not quite all the robots have turned evil. Each robot is powered by a ‘core’ containing its personality, and your trusty robot dog remains friendly, containing a core named Mack. Later you find two more robotic allies; Seth, and the amusingly named (for a mysterious power running a robot ape) Duncan. You can take two of these three out into the wild at a time; and once you find the flying robot frame, you can swap cores between bodies at will in your character Joule’s safe house, a vehicle known as a Crawler. This serves as your base of operations where you can also convert cores to energy (more on this in a moment), and build & apply stat-boosting upgrades for your robot buddies. This unfortunate wording leads to one loading screen message which encourages you to “visit Joule’s Crawler as often as possible”.
It’s theoretically an open world with dungeons scattered around, though it’s a very small world given the size of these things in 2016. As you wander around, you’ll be ambushed on a regular basis by animal bots of various colours. It’s important to pay attention to these colours, and not only because using ammo the same colour as your enemy (you soon unlock red, yellow, and blue) will deal maximum damage. Different coloured cores mean different attribute boosts. Extract a core (which you must do before destroying the bot, but after knocking its energy down past a certain point) to take it back to your crawler, and use it to beef up your bots (red for attack, yellow for defence, blue for energy, i.e. special attacks). Some enemies can change colour, including colours you can’t find ammo to match, so you need to keep on your toes. The combat, actually, is pretty good.
The whole platform adventuring thing works very well too... to begin with. Compare it to Metroid or Zelda depending on which way your whistle blows, but the bottom line is that some areas are inaccessible until you’ve gained the relevant ability (via your bots). The spider can scuttle across special tracks, the ape can smash through certain boulders, and the flying... thing allows you to glide through the air. This all combines to create a platform shooter adventure that keeps you busy with things to do and makes you wistfully sigh “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” right up until the point where it almost becomes a different, markedly inferior game.
Did you believe ‘em when they told you that exploring was optional? Ha, sucker!! When you’re almost at the end of the story – reaching a tower where you must battle an evil robot called, er, Victor – you’re punished for your enthusiasm with some harsh unlock requirements that instantly double your playtime. Each of the tower’s five floors has a player level recommendation, and a compulsory minimum of ‘prismatic core’ collectables that you must have in your pants. End result: A game that starts as a cool action platformer, but finishes as a collectandgrindathon.
Joule love the first half, bot core blimey the second half drags. 3/5
Recore at CeX
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