“The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.” – Kevin Flynn, TRON Legacy
What man cannot physically see, he colors it via his imagination, giving rise to fantastic works of art that defies all known laws. Case in point, all those forms of media that give us a glimpse of the intangible realm inside a computer, the very domain of binary digits and crisscrossing electrical signals born of imagination. And therefore movies like TRON and Matrix have long grasped our minds. Even in the videogames department, I can think of Tron 2.0 and Tron Evolution, which show a sprawling and lively digital world possible within the circuits of our motherboard. And Recompile looks like a neat addition to it.
Or is it?
>/ Execute Life (Y/N)
Earth is now a wasteland – air polluted, water irradiated – repercussions of the pyrrhic war man fought to stave off the Dragonfly threat. The facility of mankind’s last hope, or so, is overseen by the Hypervisor AI whose mandate is to assist the scientists in researching life sustenance projects on a dying planet. But things don’t go as planned. This is where you come in, program. Your mandate is to repair the mainframe and access its core to learn the truth about Hypervisor and the scientists that were present there.
On the surface, it appears that Recompile features a strong narrative told exclusively via collectible audio transcripts scattered throughout the mainframe. The writing is topnotch and all it’s missing is an actual voice-over that would have made it more immersive. But sadly all you do is read through hordes of texts. And there are plenty of collectibles unraveling the scientists’ growing distrust of Hypervisor but none of it solves any mystery. You feel like there will be some form of closure, but even after completing the game and seeing all the 4 text-based endings, you’d be like “Bruh, that’s it?” It’s far too easy to lose track of the narrative if you’re not much of a reader.
>/Encountering rogue security protocols
Recompile is a third-person, Metroidvania platformer with some shooting elements in-between. The combat is tight and will remind you of Max Payne and CONTROL. Not to mention, you can install the ability to underclock yourself and perceive the world in slow motion – basically bullet-time. However, combat is only one aspect of the game, and that too a minimal one because there aren’t many enemies to begin with. And I’m talking about both the variety and the number of enemies throughout the mainframe. It feels as if the enemy programs were added at the last moment to provide a mild challenge. Mild, because once you unlock all the combat abilities (which can be quite early depending on which level you enter first) you can one-hit kill anyone and everyone, that too in slow-mo!
In fact, you can play the entire game in slow motion (like a potato PC executing a sophisticated code). Armaments look abstract but can be segregated as pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle and a charged sniper rifle, and they are enough to make the boss battles an absolute cakewalk (and there ain’t many bosses to begin with either). And towards the endgame, you get the ability to spawn instantly at the place where you die (unless you fall down the level) literally making you immortal. To summarize, Recompile badly needs to ramp up its difficulty by increasing the enemy count (maybe variety as well), upgrade enemy AI and limit the number of times and duration of the slow motion. In fact, put a restriction on the number of times you can use your weapons continuously (CONTROL had swarms of enemies and our weapons had cooldowns)
>/ Initiating countermeasures
The core gameplay is platforming, which is both fun and nuisance at the same time. Swathes of the mainframe are covered in darkness and the only source of light is your body’s illumination. 80 out of 100 you’re bound to fall off due to poor judgment of the boundary where you’re standing (thanks to the poor lighting). And once you fall, get ready to watch your character plummet for a straight 8 seconds before hitting the final ground. I kid you not, I legit thought the game glitched because I was falling for too long. Level design is at its peak and sometimes you’ll find more than one way to traverse, but at times, the same level becomes tedious when you’ve to jump on tiny fragments of platforms and a slight misstep means death, thus sending you back to the beginning of the gauntlet. But even that can be bypassed as towards the end game you get a jetpack allowing you to breeze through anything in front of you. Furthermore, the game’s description said we will encounter environmental puzzles based on Logic Gates (AND, OR, and NOR). However, in 90% of cases, you press a button (irrespective of which Gate it’s connected to), and the pathways open. Even later you get the hacking ability that lets you invert the signals of all the gates. One good thing is exploration is prime as there is a good chance you might miss some of the abilities (e.g. the hacking one)
>/Visuals, Sound and Performance
Despite having a world made of low polygons, the visuals are glorious to look at. Every level has its own unique color tone and its own ambient music marked by intermittent silence. The mainframe really echoes that feeling of loneliness and desolation as parts of it lie in ruins with fragmented memories and executed codes hanging down by the thread. Recompile provides a surreal display of what is inside the computer with its unique environmental designs composed of buildings made of circuit boards and unique flora made up of glowing neon codes.
As for the performance, there were times when the fps dropped, but that was for a short second. But the major issue was during the boss battles as the boss (Hex) partially submerged itself into the floor and started firing from underneath with just enough parts exposed above the floor. Considering the theme of the game, it was hard to say whether that was a parlor trick of the boss or the game legit glitched.
Initially, Recompile showed a lot of promise. I thought I would be fighting with hordes of enemies, solving tough Logic Gate-based puzzles, pausing time to hack enemies mid-battles (and thinking they would assist me in boss fights), but the game felt more like an average platformer through and through. Every challenge that the levels throw at you can be bypassed with your godlike abilities towards the endgame. Like a said, Recompile really needs to ramp up its difficulty so that gamers can actually feel the heat of battle (or processors).
Final Review : Not Recommended