Explore the birth of sapient AI in this atmospheric hacking adventure set in the sprawling world of Recompile.
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This is a metroid like 3D action adventure game that takes place inside a computer world. The premise seemed cool and I am sucker for Metroid game design but this game lacks the focus to create a good game.
Recompile has decent controls and mechanics, it’s not super tight controls but the feel of the character and jumping works well in this strange AI world. As you play you gain new abilities to access new areas, these start off simple like a double jump, a dash, and some combat upgrades like new weapons. But by the end of the game you get some ridiculous skills, one being a jet pack that lets you fly around like Superman, but drunk because controlling the jet pack isn’t great. So it nails the Metroid progression system, I was looking forward to each new power and enjoyed putting them to use.
The main problem with Recompile is the level design, this game feels like it was created by kid playing Dreams and for their level they just randomly put platforms everywhere. I was baffled at the design, some levels are huge sprawling locations that extend way above your starting point and even way below. The way up or down has you randomly jumping on pipes, or floating small circles, or falling down and double jumping on a small platform before going splat. Most games levels make sense from a design perspective and this game doesn’t. It’s just hard to move around, maybe some people will find it charming to play something so nebulous in its design but I don’t. I like smart cohesive level design, especially in a Metroid style game.
It also doesn’t help that the combat is mostly busywork. There are a few enemies and they are all some form of a floating orb that shoots at you. Once you get the best gun and the slow motion ability it all becomes trivial. There are some big boss battles that are interesting, they aren’t polished in any way but it serves as a good moment.
The game story is told through a bunch of files and in game messages. You are basically a AI construct entering a previously shattered AI, your job is to fix the broken AI so the levels you play through are the different pieces of the AI. It’s a unique concept and I enjoyed the story the files told.
There is a unique gameplay mechanic that is not used enough, basically you can hack modes that control the power through the level. Power is needed to activate elevators or gates to access new levels, to direct the power there are pipes with “and” or “or” gates, terms you will be familiar with if you know programming. Certain areas have small puzzles where you need to activate these gates in the right sequence to get the power where you need it.. or you can hack the gate to change its setting, which can make puzzles much easier. Apparently the game was supposed to change if you played certain way, like hacked too much but I didn’t see that in action at all. This mechanic was used early on a lot but by the last two worlds it’s all but thrown out, odd.
Recompile is clearly a rough indie game, I got to hand it to the team for trying a genre many don’t. That alone assured that I enjoy my time with the game but I was left wanting so much more. Its like 6 hours long which was perfect for this kind of game. It moves at a brisk pace with new powers and levels constantly so at least I wasn’t bored, I was just confused at why it’s all so sloppy. It’s free on gamepass, give it a whirl if you are curious, it’s not bad, but I think it’s safe to say this a game you can pass on.
Overall Score 5.8
This is probably one of the worst attempts at creating a 3D platformer that I've dealt with in recent times. The jumping feels extremely restrained with little horizontal movement, so every jump feels unsafe. You'll also splat if you fall more than the height of two jumps, so you'll be finding that you splat a lot because surfaces often look very non distinct in this world that's filled with this mix of bright lights and dark blocks and walls. And if you fall off the stage, you'll usually have to fall the entire vertical distance until you splat on the ground below... which can take upwards of 15 seconds or more because the platforms are usually elevated well above the ground. As a result, there was a ton of downtime because it's so easy to fall off the stage in the worlds with a subpar jump and no mechanism to cut your falling momentum (or improve your somewhat slow walking speed inbetween your jumps) in the beginning of the game.
The combat is also a giant problem. Firstly, your weapons feel like peashooters against most of the enemies' lasers and shots. I get that this is probably intentional, but this makes combat an uphill battle when it's already so tedious. You can't fire your weapon unless you're aiming down your sights, and when you do, your movement slows to a crawl. As a result, you can't strafe your enemies' attacks effectively. This results in this awkward cycle where you have to aim down sights, fire a few shots, get out of aiming down sights, try and anticipate and dodge an attack, and then aim down sights again to try and attack the enemy. Or you could just try and stomach the attacks, but that also doesn't work very well because the enemies drop far less health pickups than any damage they inflict upon you. It's also worth mentioning that enemies are often flying above you, and the extent at which you can angle your aiming upwards is very noticeable and rather limited, so you often have to run away from the enemy just to be able to aim at the enemy (and that's no small task on these small platforms where you could very easily fall off!). So combine this with enemy attacks that are fairly difficult to react to (the lasers are almost instant in their appearance and you have to anticipate it coming), difficult aiming (at least on a controller, since I use a controller for 3D platformers; a slightly faster reticle speed and a lock on for enemies would have been greatly appreciated) and a constant need to reaim, respawning enemies very early on, and very weak firepower at the beginning of the game when there are plenty of enemies you will have to confront, and combat is a disaster.
The one thing I'll give Recompile credit for is the way it attempts to spin its narrative, through indirect storytelling conveyed using logs scattered throughout the worlds. Unfortunately, all the platforming and movement and combat in-between just makes the storytelling not feel worthwhile. I really wanted to like this game and progress further to get more upgrades, but the barrier of entry due to its lack of understanding on how to make a mechanically solid 3D platformer with good combat was just too much. If Balan Wonderworld didn't exist, I would state with no reservations that this is the worst 3D platformer I have ever played that still had a respectable budget to put effort into its outer appearances.