At first glance, ReCore looked tremendously appealing to me: it had a cool female protagonist, a lot of exciting platforming, and a companion in the form of a robot dog. Unfortunately, despite having some cool characters in a very pretty world, ReCore ultimately falls flat on its face.
The most disappointing part of ReCore is that it has so much potential. Even during the first hour or two, the game feels fun, fresh, and exciting. Yet, during the next six or so hours that it takes to complete the game, it simply repeats and repeats the same mundane fetch quests, missions, and combat tactics, over and over to the point of annoyance.
ReCore focuses on three main gameplay mechanics: platforming, combat, and robot companions.
Combat is the most frustrating of the three mechanics. Our heroine Joule has a gun that can shoot in two ways: a rapid pulse shot, or a more powerful charged shot. This gun never does anything different and, for some reason, levels up – but every time it levels up, so does Joule, so it’s never really stated what the purpose of that is. Additionally, her gun can shoot three different colors of ammo. Choosing to use red, blue, or yellow ammo directly impacts the amount of damage you inflict on the enemies, who also spawn in the three colors. Nearly every enemy you encounter in the game acts roughly the same way, meaning you approach defeating them in a similar way – choose the correct color to inflict the most damage until Joule is able to extract its core – a round ball that acts as a life supply and provider of energy to each enemy.
It’s these cores, along with other random scraps that Joule finds in the game’s very barren “open-world,” that she then takes back to her home base to use to upgrade her robot companions. While she starts the game with her trusty robot dog named Mack, Joule gets a few other sidekicks too, each with their own unique ability, whether it’s digging in the sand for hidden objects, or having enough strength to destroy rocks blocking her path. Each companion can assist in battle as well.
But here’s where it gets downright annoying: Joule can only take two companions with her at any given time (you eventually have three to choose from). As you traverse the map to your next destination, it is not uncommon to come to a puzzle that requires the particular skill of a companion you had not included in your “party.” As a result, you are forced to either return to your home base, or hope you’re near a fast travel station that allows you to swap companions in and out of your party. This seems to be an unnecessary and annoying mechanic that probably could have been solved in a much easier way.
In addition to forcing you to travel far and wide to change companions, ReCore also sends you on an obscene number of fetch quests. It seems that every time that you finally encounter the door you were looking for to move onto the next section, you are forced to turn around and find five “prismatic cores” to get it to open. You then must run around, with little indication of where to look, for where these power cells might be, so that you can finally get through the door and onto your next fetch quest. These cores are often found in the game’s optional dungeons, therefore rendering them no longer so “optional.”
However, it’s the moments between fetch quests that are the silver living for the game. The platforming is really great, mostly due to the great jumping mechanics. Joule can double jump and dash, allowing you to cross wide gaps, hundreds of feet in the air. I often found myself thinking, “I probably won’t make this,” but after I literally took a leap of faith, I was able to latch onto the platform at the last second, something that feels undeniably awesome.
Finally, beyond its gameplay missteps, ReCore can be a bit of a mess. Multiple times while jumping, Joule literally jumped into a cliff, leaving me with nothing to do but reset the game as she floated in the middle of a gray screen. Other times, notifications telling me where to go simply disappeared from the map. And then there’s atrocious loading times. Luckily, I didn’t die too often during the game, because loading screens can literally last for nearly 90 seconds after each death. It’s a frustrating and confusing problem to have during this console generation. These technical glitches cause an already-boring game to become blatantly tedious as a result.
Sadly, it’s hard to recommend ReCore even at its budget price of $40. The game is generic and is pulled down by misstep after misstep. With a little more time and focus, it probably could have turned into something as cool as a robot dog.