The legendary Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune, has had a rough 2016. Not only did his Blue Bomber spiritual successor (Mighty No. 9) suffer several delays and launch woes, but once it hit fans’ hands, it got a less than stellar reception. But the legend himself didn’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption. Enter Microsoft exclusive ReCore. Along with Armature Studio (team behind the fantastic Metroid Prime series), Inafune is bringing the action-platformer back to a new generation of gamers. Does Inafune find sweet, sweet redemption with his latest title?
The beginning of the game finds players on the strange planet of Far Eden, a world humans had hoped would be their new haven. Playing in the role of Rey… umm, I mean Joule Adams, you wake up completely alone and confused on the desert planet. Not knowing exactly what’s going on (where the hell did everyone go?), you search for clues that explain where your brethren disappeared to. Your only companion is a robo-doggo (a.k.a. corebot) named Mack.
During your adventure, you find out why humans had to leave Earth, and learn more about what happened to everyone else who traveled to Far Eden through a series of voice logs. You’ll also meet more corebots, including new companions like Seth (a spider-like climbing bot) and Duncan (the muscle). Not all bots are friendly though; many are actually corrupted and attack Joule throughout the adventure.
This game is reminiscent of the PS2-era platformers (and Mega Man, of course), which means you spend the majority of the time traversing the map via double jumping and forward dashing. As you can imagine, knowing the mind of Keiji Inafune, the way you have to use these basic tools becomes progressively intricate as the game unfolds. You’ll have to time jumps, plan them out so you don’t miss your target, and even have to make your way through disappearing platforms a la Mega Man, while dodging lasers and other deadly obstacles.
At first the platforming seems simple, but things open up significantly once you get Seth. This little dude is able to climb on certain surfaces while taking Joule along for the spectacular ride. This extra mechanic is used masterfully in tandem with the jumping to create some intense platforming sequences that will pose a challenge to even the most veteran platformer enthusiast. Unfortunately, however, the other companions are kind of dull. Duncan smashes things and Mack digs items up; obviously not the most exciting mechanics.
It does however, take inspiration from the Metroid series as new locations and secrets become available in the open world of Far Eeden once you unlock new companions. However, you can only take two companions with you at a time, which becomes an annoyance when you’re deliberately searching out secret locations to only find that you brought the wrong crew. Weird choice, indeed.
Your second mechanic is a gun that uses unlimited color-coded ammunition that coordinates with different enemies to deal extra damage. The game actually auto-aims for you, so it definitely isn’t in the same realm of something like Call of Duty or Uncharted. Your job is to keep shooting, juggling between ammunition, and dodging incoming attacks while also commanding your companion to unleash special attacks.
When enemy corebots are weak enough, you can grapple out their cores (which are the spheres that powers them). Successfully yanking out a core will yield currency for leveling up certain aspects of your companion corebots, like attack and defense.
I wasn’t too thrilled with the auto-aim choice, but it works for the most part. The only problem is that it gets repetitive rather quickly. In order to ramp up the difficulty, the game just throws more enemies at you, each one with a sponge of a health bar. It doesn’t feel incredibly tactical, and can get frustrating, especially when you keep getting staggered from a hit that leads to your death because there are so many incoming attacks. Worst of all, the game gets into the habit of throwing you into battle rooms where you’ll face waves upon waves of enemies. It’s the worst.
The same goes for the boss battles. While the first few boss fights are interesting when considering the great designs of the characters, it becomes tedious when the battles simply involve trying to take down the big baddie while endless enemies spawn around you.
Now for more on Far Eden. For this being a supposed alien planet, it just sort of looks like a giant desert with rocks. It was supposed to be colonized by humans, so you’ll find half-built machinery, and even some structures, but most of the place is sandy terrain. It also doesn’t help that nothing looks great in terms of graphics, especially when you get up close.
Under the shifting sands, there are dungeons to explore, which is where the world becomes much more colorful and interesting. Dungeons are full of minerals, so walls will glisten with different shades of red, yellow, and blue. Completing these puzzle-filled dungeons also yields special prism cores that unlock new spots on the map and are eventually needed towards the end of the game (avoiding spoilers here). But collecting these special cores again feels like a PS2-era mechanic. They don’t really do anything, other than pad the gameplay time by forcing you to complete dungeons. Not necessarily a great mechanic.
As for the narrative, the almost cartoony art design and several voice acting moments underplay the tone of the story. There are some serious moments that don’t hit home the way they were intended to, and it never feels like Joule is in grave danger, nor that she feels the emotional weight of what’s going on. Again, maybe the story wasn’t supposed to be too serious, but what’s going on is pretty intense.
This brings me to my next point, the story will come to a screeching halt several times to force you to collect the prism orbs. This absolutely obliterates all the momentum during the narrative and crumbles any bit of pacing in the game.
What do you get when you put all of this together? Well, a pretty average experience, it turns out. For every fun moment of exploration there’s a tedious combat sequence. It’s not bad, but it’s just not great either. It does get the old-school platforming right, at least.
Some minor stutters and less than stellar graphics aside, the other culprit that frustrated me was the load times. It is unclear whether this can or will be fixed via patch, but hot damn are there some long loading screens. Sometimes it would take a minute plus for an area to boot up, while other times it would only take about 30 seconds. The problem is that there’s a lot of loading in the game. Fast travel, new locations, and deaths all send you to the dreaded waiting screen. Chances are it can be fixed through a patch.
One last note: this is the first Xbox Play Anywhere game, which means nabbing it digitally will also give you the PC version, so you can play it on both platforms while having the save file follow you around.
ReCore is flawed, there’s no doubt about it. The repetitive combat, frustrating battle rooms, and awful loading times deter from what could have been a fun throwback game. I can recommend this title to those who enjoy collecting items and platforming, but for everyone else, it can be a bit of a slog. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of Joule in the future.
- The platforming aspect of the game is on point. If the game had more platforming, and a little bit less combat, it would be a much more cohesive experience.
- The massive rooms, and sprawling puzzle design are a thing of beauty. Going through obstacle courses that require you to jump on disappearing platforms, avoiding lasers and giant electric spheres, all while trying to beat the clock is reminiscent of the best PS2-era platformers.
- Challenge dungeons located in Far Eden are worth playing through because of the above.
- Seth is the man (or bot)!
- Interesting concepts like pulling cores out of enemies that could be expanded upon in the future.
- Battle rooms become frustrating when facing high level baddies. Brawls don’t feel all that exciting when you’re restricted to a square space barely big enough for you to dash around.
- Only have two companions with you at a time. Finding Far Eden’s secrets requires you to get through different obstacles that only certain companions can help you overcome. There were times where I left one back in the shop that I needed, so I’d have to go all the way back to switch.
- Why does the game completely stop and force me to collect cores multiple times? Talk about completely halting any momentum your story creates.
- On paper the narrative is interesting, the execution on the other hand is not all that spectacular.
- The world is dull, and really only gets interesting when jumping into dungeons. For an alien planet, it really just looks like a giant desert.
This review was completed using an Xbox One copy of ReCore provided by Microsoft. The game will hit shelves on September 13, 2016 for the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.