Robot Buddy Adventure
It's been a while since I've played a game like Recore, which takes its inspirations from Metroid, Mega Man, and other adventure games of that era. It's not surprising when you look at exactly who's involved in the game, and the studio behind it. Recore is pretty refreshing in that regard, has a generous lock-on system and provides a pretty big (if sparse) world to explore. On the surface it isn't too taxing, but there's a few things which spice up the gameplay as you progress further in.
Chiefly it's a Robot Buddy Adventure in 3d with the central protagonist Joule starting off strong, with some good characterisation and a friendly robo buddy called Mack. Mack is one of several Corebots that you can collect and customise, with his own personality, and importantly - his own set of special attacks/abilities to help Joule in her adventure.
I'm not going to dive into the story, because I loathe spoilers in that regard.
So... thanks to Xbox UK for the code for this game and here we go!
Metroidvania with Style
Yep, as I said previously there's a lot of Metroid in here and that's a good thing. Joule is a nimble character, can double-jump and she can dash-jump with the best of them. You'll need those skills a-plenty because Recore is part shooter, part puzzler, and definitely part platformer. There's a bit of repetition in the puzzle design, with a lot of things requiring Cellbots (power cell robots) to open further gateways in dungeons, path progression and so on.
Many of these Cellbots are hidden around the area, trapped in cages, on hard to reach platforms - or buried underground. Hey, you get the idea right?
Mack has a special ability, he can dig. Hold down X and order the little Dogbot guy to ferret around and find stuff in certain areas of the map.
Shooting and Levelling, and Cores.
It won't be long before Joule gets into a gunfight, she can fire using her rifle and there's some tactical thinking to the shooting side of the game. Sure there's a very forgiving lock-on mechanic that might be a bit too sticky for some folks used to a more freeform aim. You can fire a rapid barrage of shots to whittle down the enemy Corebots. You can also hold down the button to launch a devastating charge-shot to cause way more damage, break enemy shields and blast smaller enemies into tiny bits.
It's all about the BOOM.
Blow enemies to bits and they're going to drop crafting parts. Useful for upgrading Joule's bots, and installing new parts.
What you want to do though is wait until you can use your Core Extractor, tap the stick in when it's prompted and you can attempt to pull the Core out of a damaged bot. Depending on the type of bot, the Core is much harder to pull, so you get to play tug of war with it. You can be interrupted by other active enemy bots in the area too. The trick is to watch the line, if it turns red, ease off the pull. A bit like many fishing mini-games. If an enemy bot doesn't see you, you might get an Instant Extract prompt and that'll let you yank the Core without any fuss.
Once you get the Core you'll store it and be able to use the power to upgrade the stats on Mack and co throughout the game.
Get enough XP from doing shooting, Core extraction, exploring and so on, you'll level up and Joule/plus her bot will improve. They'll do a bit more damage, get better and so forth.
The game does suffer somewhat from 'Groundhog Day' syndrome. Rinse-repeat tasks that have you farming parts, Cores, and XP to improve Joule and her bots. Fortunately I found it fun enough that the grind side of the game didn't really put me off, I'm still having fun with it even now.
The Corebots are another way the game closes off certain areas. Rather like Tomb Raider, or Rise of the Tomb Raider, you need a certain bit of kit to get past a wall or higher into an area. In the case of Recore, it'll be the bot that lets you climb onto special track-sections that propel you into the air. Here timing is everything, fail and you'll have to start the sequence again, or plummet to your death on the floor below you.
Recore has a fast travel system too, certain key areas have a transporter, and Joule can always return to her Crawler from mostly anywhere on the map just by looking at the Map Screen. Here she can upgrade her Corebots, craft, install new parts and so on.
If there's a bugbear in the game to mention though, it's the load times. They're not as long as Witcher 3 can get, but they are still a bit of a pain. Fortunately there's been a patch for the game that helps cut the load times down.
Recore gets really interesting later on when you grab some rifle upgrades, suddenly you're shooting Red, Blue, Yellow lasers at bots. If you match the colour you'll break their defences quicker, and there's some bigger enemies that require various colour-match tricks to end them quickly. Some of them don't match the colour you have, so you'll need to figure out the colour combination to get their defence down and put an end to them - especially Bosses, but I'll leave you to figure those out.
Bigger than Expected
Exploration is key to survival in Recore, and you can go off the beaten track, find Dungeons of various types - explore them, get loot, get rare materials for crafting and solve little puzzles. You might even get to battle a hidden Boss or two. This makes Recore quite a big game, bigger than you might expect, and packed with a lot of stuff to do. Not much to see, because whilst the areas are big, they're kind of like Rey on Jakku in Force Awakens... broken tech, deserts and desolation for the most part.
The frame rate's stable and that's a godsend in a game that's based on shooting stuff, and platforming skills. Joule's dash, double-jump and other tricks are vital to survive the fights in Recore and doubly-so when you're doing the platform sections. A quick wit, nimble fingers, and a few trial and error attempts will see you through the game though.
It looks nice enough, not quite as nice as it could do. The animations are quality, and Joule's Corebot buddies steal the show right out from under everything else - especially Mack, the Dogbot as I call him.
The Bottom Line
You came here to see if Recore's worth it. Yeah, I think so, it's not going to blow anyone's minds but it's a solid game, has some great moments and it is worth playing. The Corebots should steal your heart and each one has a great AI personality, especially Mack.
The load times might still be an issue, but a recent patch did cut those down somewhat.
I'd say the bottom line is: worth a punt!