RECORE

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - Si­mon Parkin

OUT now FOR­MATS: Pc, Xb1

di­rec­tor Mark Pacini cast Erika Soto, Con­nor Trin­neer, Harry Shum Jr

Plot Joule Adams (Soto) awakes from a cryo-sleep to find Far Eden, the planet she was sent to colonise, is over­run by ro­bots. With her me­chan­i­cal helpers, she must re­store or­der and find her fa­ther.

RECORE’S IN­GRE­DI­ENTS ARE

com­fort­ingly fa­mil­iar. Squint and you’d be for­given for mis­tak­ing pro­tag­o­nist Joule (Soto) for Star Wars new­comer Rey: both women are of a sim­i­lar age and share both a style (brown, sweep­ing head­scarf; fore­head-mounted gog­gles), a vo­ca­tion (scav­enger of scrapped tech­nol­ogy) and a love of me­chan­i­cal com­pan­ions. Joule’s planet, Far Eden, is as sand­blasted and swel­ter­ing as Jakku, pocked with Zelda-es­que dun­geons, each of which must, as in Miyamoto’s classic ad­ven­ture se­ries, be sal­vaged and solved, usu­ally be­fore a fi­nal face-off with a tow­er­ing boss. Joule’s weapon nig­gles at foes like a Gears

Of War ma­chine gun, while her trusty ro­bot dog, Mack, can be or­dered to sniff, dig and at­tack as in Fable et al.

In the finer details, how­ever, this game, which brings to­gether the tal­ents of Mega Man cre­ator Keiji Ina­fune and those of Ar­ma­ture Stu­dio, whose staff pre­vi­ously worked on the Metroid Prime se­ries, is en­tirely its own. Suf­fi­ciently de­plete the health of one of the ro­bots that spring from the desert sands, for ex­am­ple, and you’re able to fire a hook­shot into its frame, in a tug-of-war bid to yank one of the tit­u­lar cores from the beast. Man­age to har­vest the core and, back at the work­bench on your ship, you can up­grade Mack or one of the other helpers in your grow­ing col­lec­tion of ro­bots (only one of which can be taken with you on a mis­sion at a time) with new parts and abil­i­ties.

Me­chan­i­cal parts (old ser­vos, pis­tons, riv­ets and so on) can be found ly­ing around the desert or, if you choose to blast away at a foe rather than aim for its core, har­vested from en­e­mies. These prove es­sen­tial com­po­nents when it comes to build­ing Mack and the oth­ers a new set of pow­er­ful legs, or a smarter head. In this way the game quickly es­tab­lishes an al­lur­ing rhythm as you ex­plore, col­lect and up­grade your min­ions.

Recore does a good job of con­tex­tu­al­is­ing all this me­chanic busy­work too. Joule has awak­ened from a long slum­ber to find New Eden de­serted and her fa­ther miss­ing. De­spite the ab­sence of other hu­mans, through a mix­ture of ca­ma­raderie and com­pan­ion­ship she man­ages to es­tab­lish a close con­nec­tion to her ro­botic brethren, her one-sided con­ver­sa­tions brought to emo­tive life by Soto’s bright per­for­mance.

No­body could ac­cuse Recore of skimp­ing on ideas. The snippy, some­times bal­letic com­bat is given fur­ther tex­ture by the fact Joule’s gun can fire four types of coloured ammo, each one strong against en­e­mies of the same colour, and with the po­ten­tial to in­flict sta­tus ef­fects on those of a dif­fer­ent colour (eg red am­mu­ni­tion may set a blue en­emy on fire and so on). There are some in­ge­nious plat­form­ing puz­zles too, the likes of which have long fallen from fash­ion yet here prove their en­dur­ing worth. The ex­e­cu­tion of its bounty of in­ge­nious riches is, at times, scrappy, a draw­back fur­ther un­der­mined by lin­ger­ing load times, and the oc­ca­sional fatal bug.

Recore is some­thing of a throw­back to the long-de­parted mid-bud­get ac­tion games of a decade ago — no great sur­prise con­sid­er­ing its lin­eage. Its build­ing blocks are fa­mil­iar and nos­tal­gic but lack the fi­nesse of to­day’s mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar block­busters. Nev­er­the­less, for a game ob­sessed with util­i­tar­ian en­gi­neer­ing and work­shop tin­ker­ing, it has a sur­pris­ingly af­fect­ing heart. It’s a game for play­ers who are will­ing to in­vest in — and, in Mack’s case, to take the time to up­grade — an un­der­dog.

ver­dict An in­con­sis­tent, of­ten un­re­fined game, Recore still bris­tles with in­ge­nu­ity. its world is al­lur­ing, its com­bat rich, its ro­bot-mod­i­fy­ing me­chanic com­pelling and its story ably told.

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