We got ourselves a Metroidvania-inspired game this time, but surprise, surprise it ISN’T 2D. Recompile is a third person shooter action adventure game with Metroidvania progression and traversal. You are a viral manifestation of light, data, and hacking skills, aided by your AI companion Janus, who occasionally chimes in as you access new areas or abilities.
There are collectible story fragments that are pretty damn well written with themes about AI, betrayal, morality, and sci-fi thriller. A foreboding AI voice totally acts like a foil to Janus, helps drive the story points home. They really help motivate you to continue, because there are points as you’re getting acclimated, although often I found myself frustrated because I didn’t feel at fault, where your patience will likely be tested. The game has a pretty neon, glitchy, polygonal aesthetic, although a combination of low lighting and an effect that obscures, in-universe they appear as fragmented, broken architecture rejoining, objects in the background until you approach them. This can make you misjudge your navigation and precision. It’s especially true considering terrain is very jagged, with many tiny gaps that are easy to overlook until you get used to it.
Gameplay is primarily platforming with logic gate puzzles that require variations on timing and ordering button presses. There are mini-dungeon portals contained in each zone which culminates with a zone boss. Combat entirely revolves around gunplay, with new “firewall” ranged weapons unlocking as you explore the world Metroidvania-style. Later on, you unlock hacking abilities, which allow you to pause the game in the recompile menu, and manipulate enemies or other elements in the environment to solve puzzles and take out obstacles. Overall, these ideas and aesthetics are solid, but for me, the execution was very hit-and-miss.
I enjoy the gameplay loop for what it is, but constantly found myself bogged down by the minutiae and navigation. Controls are mostly tight, but it is easy to miss space jumps that looked accurate, fall when you look to be on solid footing, and some other problems with precision. I think a lot of these things can be adjusted for your own gameplay, but there were so many times where it took me out of the loop and frustrated me. Fortunately, the devs seem to be actively taking in feedback for UI quality of life changes, more menu options, and other fixes. In its current state, I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag but if you can get past some of the rough patches, the overall game is pretty solid.
One of the first problems I had was with shooting is that you HAVE to aim down the sights whenever you’re firing, which greatly limits your mobility in firefights. You’re expected to move around and only shoot once you have a clean position, but with how much the game uses verticality and with how jerky and laggy both moving and aiming can be when you switch back and forth, there can be some friction. There is an unlockable, called underclock, which simplifies the game to a point that very high precision is a non-issue, but it could be argued that this ability is a tad over-tuned towards the player. It requires no resources and has no limit so you can just use it whenever as much as you want; it slows down time allowing you to react to things easier. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Underclock likely exists for people who aren’t able to play the game normally as an accessibility option.) Boss fights are entertaining, requiring smart positioning, proper weapon selection, and exploiting enemy weakspots.
There are times where the ambient lighting can be a little sparse and affect your platforming and vision overall. This could get especially annoying when you’re trying to figure out what path to follow, and you find navigating which areas are accessible to be a chore. The metroidvania elements are relatively light, but it can be very frustrating to figure out when you have the tools you need to proceed, and when you need to look around. The environment looks nice, but landmarks can start to look very samey, and it can be easy to find yourself going in circles. A checkpoint system is as simple as finding deactivated rings on the ground, which means you cannot quicksave unless you reach these points. These do help guide you despite what I said about orienting yourself, so that’s a plus. Although, there are still many times where you might hit checkpoints or progress down a path only to find out that you don’t have what you need. For the most part, it’s obvious when you need to return, but other times, it might take some experimentation, or you might THINK you’re missing something when you aren’t. There really is no fast travel option or teleportation available, so I hope you know your way back around. It’s hard to say how linear the game really is: it feels relatively open-ended, but towards the middle, it can be linear until you unlock some of the traversal abilities. You do have a map, but it doesn’t exactly update itself as you explore, which is a feature I believe on the Dev’s radar in the future.
All in all, I think Recompile has a lot of potential, but my play sessions were sadly a bit more of a drudge than I would have liked. I think once you get to the middle of the game, it really hits its stride, especially once you get used to some of the little intricacies and kinks. I think in this current state at its price, it’s not a diehard, universal recommend, but it’s a decent pickup for 3D action adventure fans. I’m mostly torn, but I don’t think I can give it the seal. Not irredeemable by any means, but I can imagine some people running into the same problems I did.
The reviewer was provided review copy by the devs.
Hellfirebam has reluctantly passed on giving Recompile the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval. I think there needs to be a few more bug fixes and polish to take this from workable to something truly amazing.