ReCore is something of an odd thumb in my house; when it was first teased back at E3 it did not make many waves. Over the past year or so, little was said about ReCore, from a small guerilla marketing campaign to a ninja-quick release, ReCore stayed largely out of the limelight. It is a shame, too, because it is a fun little action-adventure title with some fun puzzles and gorgeous landscapes even if the action is a bit repetitive at times. ReCore to me seems to be suffering a bit from underexposure when it really should be sitting front-and-center prior to the big Fall releases.
ReCore is a great little game with just enough depth to keep it interesting while staying light and casual enough that you can pick it up and play for an hour or so and then be quite comfortable putting it down to go grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte or a New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale. (Editor's Note: I loved that Robert mentioned this, because I have pumpkin beers in mind for his Friday's Beeps and Beers article, including Ichabod. So I had to let the following meme through when he asked me if I was willing to include it)
ReCore puts you in the shoes of Joule, a terraforming engineer that seems to have awoken from a long sleep on a desolate, sand-filled planet and it is up to you and your trusty robotic (and customizable!) friend Mack to discover what went wrong and to right the wrongs of the universe. Given the fact that it is toted as a puzzle-packed action-adventure game, ReCore needed to really electrify the gaming market due to the fact that this is a combined genre that has been perfected by the likes of Super Mario Brothers, Limbo, Braid, Tomb Raider, Fez, or any number of indie hits. ReCore might not be as good as those, but what it does, it does well. From the interesting tug-of-war style quicktime events and basic combat mechanics to the ingenious platforming aspects, utilizing wall-climbing, double-jumping, mid-air dashing at their best, ReCore is an excitable romp through the desert wasteland.
Not everything is so full of spunk and fun though; in an attempt to be good at not only platforming and puzzle-solving, ReCore also tries to through in RPG-like level/customization elements, and there is plenty of gun-play throughout the game. Unfortunately the RPG-like elements and gun-based action are pretty dull, rudimentary at best. Sure, hunting around for blueprints that allow you to build new body parts for Mack (thus changing his abilities) can be interesting, but it is shallow and simplistic; basic at its best. Gun-play is limited to shooting a burst of explosive energy or (as it is auto-upgraded) a rapid-fire stream of energy. Simple, sure, and made slightly more interesting by the fact that you can add "elements" (or really, just colors) to your attacks as you progress through the story.
The elements do add a bit of strategic thinking into the mix, as the enemy robots that you will encounter will have an affinity for an element and a weakness to a different element (color). When you see a robot with a red core you would switch to the red color (which seems to indicate fire/flame) you can do bonus damage to that robot. Each fight can have a bit of a mini-game attached to it in the fact that as the robot's life nears critical you can shoot your grappling hook into their shell and grab their core; enter in a tug-of-war-style QTE where you need to keep the hook situated just right to pull out the core and scoring an insta-kill while retaining crafting / level-up materials. It is fun at first, then you realize that trying to do so in combat with more than one unit is a death sentence so it becomes a tedious process during long play sessions.
Even with the shallow combat or simplistic crafting/leveling system, stepping into the boots of Joule as she discovers the semi-open world of Far Eden and works to fix the terraforming engines on the planet, is an enjoyable experience. In truth, ReCore would most definitely fit more into the realm of Xbox Arcade games, alongside Braid and Limb, than it would sitting at the big boy's table with AAA titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted 4: Thief's End. That said, it does not mean that ReCore is a bad game; far from it actually. Just a bit misguided and shallow in some respects. Fortunately a decent (and occasionally touching) story, beautiful graphics, and some of the best platforming available to date carry the weaker aspects like combat or level progression/customization.
What I find so interesting, and likely a big part of the allure of ReCore, is how it was shown to much fanfare at E3, winning some 10-12 awards, then it went silent for a good long while. Normally marketing will begin pushing hard right from day one on a title that is well received, and ReCore was. Instead the marketing and news about ReCore stayed relatively quiet up until it released, and even then it released to little fanfare which is a downright shame because ReCore could be so much more with a little push from the folks at Microsoft and/or Comcept. There are plenty of little moments, like the loving relationship between Joule and Mack, or the overall mission for the game, that really shine and could draw in a lot of gamers, if only it was talked about and highlighted. My biggest fear with ReCore is that if falls into obscurity because nobody seems to be talking about it.
ReCore is a fantastic platformer with some action and roleplaying bits strewn throughout its dust-filled wasteland. It deserves the light of day, as it is one of the best Arcade-style games I have seen in years.
Microsoft Game Studios
Article by Robert