ReCore is lean. The kinds of padded Content™ typically found in this genre are absent. Not once must the player scale some kind of tower in order to unlock more of the map. For the most part, it’s just Joule and her robo-pals having a blast exploring the desert world of Far Eden and blowing up corrupt ‘CoreBots’. Simple, unobstructed fun. ReCore is a good example of the adage ‘less is more’, or at least a counter-point to the idea that more is better.
There are towers to climb, though. If you want to. They don’t reveal the map at all, unless you count using a combination of high ground and eyeballs. Platforming plays a pretty large role—particularly towards the end of the game. To tackle this, Joule has both a double-jump and a forward dash, which can be used in tandem—along with a number of other objects and CoreBot abilities—to navigate quite freely. Climbing sheer cliffs or rickety buildings through clever platforming is its own challenge—and reward, though there are typically plenty of tangible rewards lying around for you to collect as well.
Most of the time will be spent shooting stuff. Joule has a laser rifle. It eventually unlocks the ability to shoot in four different colours, which correspond with colours of enemies. Match colours, do more damage. Even when it gets slightly more complex with that addition of green, purple, and orange enemies, the fundamental play is very puzzle-like. Match colours, avoid bad CoreBots, explode things, celebrate victory.
Actually, ReCore is probably better described as a puzzle game cleverly disguised as an action adventure game. Colour matching for combat, visual puzzles for exploration and platforming, mental puzzles for piecing together the narrative. Even customising the CoreBot companions is puzzle-like, as each can end up assembled from different pieces like some weird Frankenstein’s monster of a jigsaw puzzle.
With all these unusual little design choices, ReCore ends up being less Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed, more Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. And I think ReCore is better for it, even if it lacks those big triple-A sensibilities and the Content™ that is expected. Even so, ReCore is not 100 per cent comfortable with letting you loose: each floor of the final dungeon requires progressively more MacGuffins, which means exploring the side dungeons does end up being a grind-y necessity.
But because ReCore is short and free of other kinds of nonsense, it’s easy to just do those dungeons, collect enough MacGuffins, and move on with things. The entire narrative can almost be summarised in a five-point bullet list—it’s quite brief but provides enough context and motivation to propel the player forward.
Being not terrible and simple in design hardly seem like ringing endorsements, but ReCore is just plain old fun. Most of the game is designed around letting the player do cool stuff as often as possible, and the cool stuff feels awesome to do and will remain entertaining for the length of the experience. There is nothing really ground breaking, but novel colour-matching combat and an absence of dumb towers to climb is enough to satisfy my appetite. Plus, cool robo-friends. Who doesn’t love that?
This review was originally published at Impulse Gamer.