Recompile is a stunning Metroidvania set within a dying mainframe. Unfortunately, it struggles to balance its great design with its flawed gameplay.
Recompile is a 3D Metroidvania that puts players in the shoes of a sapient A.I. as it explores a vast digital expanse in order to discover the truth behind the Hypervisor and repair a dying mainframe. To do so, players will acquire various combat, traversal, and hacking abilities to take on anti-virus protocols and other enemies. The digital landscape of Recompile is massive and stunning in its vibrant use of color and harsh angles, but that size often works against the experience in a way that can be confusing for long stretches of the game.
Unlike most Metroidvanias, Recompile chooses to embrace a less direct soulslike approach to storytelling. There is a front-facing narrative that’s delivered by a different A.I, but most of the background of what’s going on and how it happened is found by collecting data cubes. At times, this issue led to forgetting there was a narrative at all until a moment of exposition appeared. That said, Recompile effectively implements cinematic moments that instill a deep emotional connection via the beautiful design of the world and its phenomenal soundtrack.
Unlike most Metroidvanias, Recompile‘s gameplay has a harsh separation of traversal and combat, sparing one exception. Traversal and platforming is a solid experience, but there are some consistent accuracy issues. Thankfully, unlocking the double and triple jump upgrades provides a safety net for misjudged distances, and even if they can’t get the player back on the platform, it can save them from smashing into solid ground. Overall, this creates a platforming experience that isn’t perfect but does give players options that prevent frustration; however, the same can’t be said for the combat.
Until players acquire the dash ability later on, the only offensive tool at their disposal is a gun that gains additional firing modes as later upgrades. The base gun is a semi-automatic weapon that fires painfully slow and often feels like it doesn’t hit or do much damage if it does. The exceptions to this are the Obliterate mode which shoots a charged beam that does devastating damage but takes a long time to fire, and the Overcharge mode that fires like a shotgun that helps take down common enemies at close range. Arguably the most frustrating part about combat is that players can only fire weapons when grounded and aiming down sights, leading to multiple scenarios where much faster enemies swarm the player and there is no option to swiftly attack.
While combat is the weakest part of the gameplay experience, the world design certainly is not. This isn’t to say it has no problems, as the immense size of certain areas leads to a lot of quiet, long-distance running and using one particular elevator takes a full minute to reach the top. These are rarities however, because the rest of Recompile‘s digital word has such lush vistas and brilliant uses of light and architecture that it just becomes a blast to explore (even if it’s not always clear where players should be going). The circuit puzzles are intricate, and once players get the titular Recompile ability, it takes a lot of creative problem solving to overcome them.
Overall, Recompile is a mixed bag that struggles to balance each aspect of its design. The world design and exploration may be great but the combat is frustrating at best and infuriating at worst, with its only saving grace being that enemy swarms and boss fights are sparse. Recompile is a stunning experience that is addictive and immersive despite its faults, however. Recompile is an excellent option for fans of Metroidvanias, challenging gameplay, and unique ideas.
Recompile releases today, August 19, 2021 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S. Screen Rant was provided with a Steam Key for the purpose of this review.
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