From the moment that ReCore was announced at E3 2015, expectations for the game began to swell as a result of its impressive pedigree. With contributions from key figures in the creation of games like Halo, Mega Man, and Metroid Prime, there was always a sense that the finished product could be a major sleeper hit among the hardcore crowd.
Having now played the game it’s safe to say that ReCore won’t be remembered anywhere near as fondly as those three games. However, a certain sector of players will no doubt rate this engaging adventure as one of their favorites from 2016 — when it’s good, it’s very good, and during those moments it’s a welcome reminder of a bygone era of gaming.
Players are cast as Joule Adams, a colonist sent to terraform the planet of New Eden after Earth is rendered inhospitable. She wakes up after a lengthy period of cryo-sleep and is faced with the task of working out exactly what went went on while she was out of commission.
To do so, she employs the help of a variety of friendly corebots, mechanical creatures that accompany her on her travels and fight alongside her. A crafting system is used to customize corebots, changing both their physical appearance and their stats.
The meat of the game comes in the form of dungeons, where players have to solve puzzles and fight bosses in order to proceed. These levels play out like a grab-bag constructed from titles released in the early 21st century — players will be able to recognize hints of Metroid Prime, 3D platformers like Jak and Daxter, and even some of the early 3D Zelda games.
However, ReCore doesn’t often reach the dizzy heights accomplished by those titles. However, the fact that out-and-out adventure games are now so few and far between means that the experience is satisfying, even if it’s not among the very best examples of the genre.
It’s fun to be put in control of Joule, whose rocket boots allow her to dash forward and double-jump to reach new heights. There’s plenty of platforming on offer; an early dungeon offers three optional objectives, one of which is a time trial. To earn all the rewards from this section of the game, all three objectives have to be fulfilled in one run, which forces players to master both the level layout and the traversal abilities of the protagonist.
Combat is a little bit less compelling. A color-based damage gimmick doesn’t offer much depth, and the extraction procedure used to finish off bosses is unconvincing. However, Joule’s agility does increase the fun factor of dodging enemy attacks.
ReCore is at its best when it calls to mind the ubiquitous 3D platformers and adventure games of yesteryear. There are times when the game feels like a lost classic that was first released on the PlayStation 2 or the GameCube — but, unfortunately, this element of its design also rears its head in a less desirable respect.
As the game enters its closing stretch, there’s an extended fetch quest that conjures up the more egregious instances of game padding — think the Triforce quest from the original version of The Wind Waker, or the search for artifacts in Metroid Prime. It’s jarring, especially from a modern perspective.
Loading times, at least on the Xbox One version of the game, are another big problem. The lengthy wait to get into the game when you first boot it up is one thing, but switching from one environment to another can be a real drag when it takes one minute or more to load the next location.
ReCore is a frustrating game. It shows distinct flashes of brilliance, but they’re often hamstrung by what we can only assume is a lack of budget or development time. As a budget release, it’s difficult to say that consumers won’t get their money’s worth, but it would have been interesting to see how the project turned out if some of its rougher edges were worn down.
Anyone with a sense of nostalgia for the sixth generation of home consoles owes it to themselves to at least give ReCore a try — it does certain things very, very well, and this kind of game is something of a rarity today. However, players that don’t have any attachment to games of that era might struggle to warm to its charms.
Despite its imperfections, this is far from a bad game. It’s not for everyone, but there are certainly players out there who will eat it up. Hitting at this crucial point of the video game calendar, it’s difficult to definitively state that ReCore deserves to be played over other big release. It’s certainly fun when it’s fun — but it doesn’t do quite enough to be considered a must-play.
ReCore is available now for Xbox One and PC. Game Rant was provided Xbox One code for this review.