Not quite the Joule in the crown

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re­leased OUt NOW! Re­viewed on XO | Also on Pc

Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft stu­dios

For some­one who’s not had hu­man com­pany for most of her life, Joule has man­aged to keep her­self ad­mirably busy. She’s a crack shot with her ri­fle, for starters, and has adopted a rig­or­ous ex­er­cise regime, if the arc of her dou­ble-jump is any in­di­ca­tion. The in­dus­tri­ous so-and-so is a dab hand with elec­tron­ics, too, man­u­fac­tur­ing a pair of dandy rocket boots for dash­ing across the desert sands of her oth­er­wise un­in­hab­ited homeworld.

That’s be­cause ReCore takes place en­tirely on Far Eden, a dusty mar­ble that was se­lected as a prime ter­raform­ing can­di­date once Earth fell vic­tim to a fu­ture-plague. Ex­actly why the ter­raform­ing ef­fort hasn’t pro­ceeded as planned is a mys­tery at the game’s out­set, and you’re left to wan­der an open over­world with no one but an ex­citable robo-dog for com­pany. Nat­u­rally, it isn’t long be­fore some mur­der­ous ma­chines turn up to kick­start the game’s ac­tion­ad­ven­ture nar­ra­tive.

ReCore has many mi­nor faults, and a fair num­ber of them can be banded to­gether un­der a sin­gle sub­head­ing: pace. The game bogs you down in de­lays at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Ev­ery player death, for in­stance, is fol­lowed by a load­ing screen of 90 sec­onds or more, which turns dif­fi­cult boss bat­tles into cruel and un­usual ex­er­cises in anger man­age­ment.

Its mis­steps of­ten feel like des­per­ate pad­ding, but ReCore is not a short game, of­fer­ing at least a dozen hours of play. Had it been trimmed back to six-to-eight hours, and a greater fo­cus been placed on dun­geon de­sign rather than scour­ing the over­world, it’d be an easy rec­om­men­da­tion.

It’s un­for­tu­nate but all too ap­pro­pri­ate that ReCore man­ages to bury the core of a strong game in a weird, spiny ex­oskele­ton. Like Joule, you’ll have to do some work if you’re go­ing to ex­tract that worth­while ker­nel of knock­about, old-school fun from Ar­ma­ture’s ad­ven­ture. James Nouch

Writer Joseph State was in­flu­enced by The Jun­gle Book and Peter Pan. He says there’s “a lit­tle bit of Wendy” in Joule.

She’d lost the Re­ally Big Screw­driver needed to re­move the sash and hel­met.

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