I’ve always loved technology and the “freedom” it allows. The world is a much smaller place thanks to its existence, and we can experience things we only dreamed of in years gone by. Yet, I do not know what makes it tick! Coding and programming are foreign languages to me and I have no clue how to decipher them. Recompile aims to break down some of these mysteries as you take a journey into a dark and menacing world.
Developed by Phigames and published by Dear Villagers, this is a science fiction Metroidvania title. Using many of the much-loved mechanics, fans of the genre will adore the difficulty, back-and-forth exploration, and many upgrades. Set in a broken cybernetic world, you control a strong and adaptable program that must heal this fractured landscape.
Recompile blends mechanics to make you grimace, grin, and celebrate.
Metroidvania games have a strong following because of their varied themes and aesthetics. Recompile is a dark and rich 3D title that mixes platforming, combat, and puzzle elements, alongside a simple but enthralling story. The purpose-built program must infiltrate the Mainframe, installing itself deep within the code while fixing, hacking, or destroying everything in sight.
This once-mighty computer program has become corrupted and is crumbling from the core outwards. It fears that it’s under attack, and raises its defences. Firewalls block pathways, and bots fight to the death to prevent any threat. You must make your way into the central exchange, where you’ll access four unusual areas. Each section has a unique look and style and requires a different thought process to reach the program in charge of that sector.
You’ll discover a unique ending, depending on how you approach each playthrough. This was an excellent proposition from the developers as it teases you to come back and explore the sprawling world repeatedly.
Unguided adventures and plenty of logbooks.
The Mainframe remembers every human that has interacted with it. The super AI known as Hypervisor retains every log and this information is as fractured as the environment you explore. Each zone reveals snippets of the story that you can search out or ignore. I found the diary entries to be intriguing, and I loved how the broken world made sense. Finding every ounce of data was challenging, but worth every scream and frustrated moment.
As the story takes shape, you’ll push further into the Mainframes confusing and vast core. You’ll discover a powered gateway and blindly leap through. This leads to some interesting moments, but also a vast waste of time and potential frustration. Recompile gives no guidance to the skills and abilities required to succeed in any zone. You’ll leap from platform to platform, activating switches, blasting enemies, or hacking robots. Yet, at pivotal moments, you lack the required skills. Without the necessary abilities, you must return to the central exchange.
This constant back and forth and lack of hand-holding left a sour taste in my mouth. Metroidvania titles are mysterious and tough, but this was too much. The demand to remember unexplored paths or to trudge back three zones, made for an arduous experience.
The upgrades change the gameplay instantly.
The story and exploration rely heavily on your abilities and attention to detail. As upgrades are unlocked, new unseen paths are revealed. With new weapons on offer, increased agility, and the ability to hack, the world is your oyster. The new skills define how the game unfolds for you, and you are free to choose your path. Do you spend your bits hacking or overheating foes, or do you blow them to pieces with your gun? You’ll use your Recompile visor to pause time and give yourself a chance to assess every situation. Here you choose how you wish to deal with each enemy, or simply allow yourself some respite from the action.
Though the combative elements are essential for your survival, the key moments revolve around the traversal mechanics. Leaping between platforms, or dashing to avoid bullets, is essential. Without these skills, you’ll fail to progress. This comes full circle to the annoyance of no guidance! You are constantly probing for clues to what is required for each section, but no hints are given. I know some players who will love this ambiguity, but I was desperate for some direction, but it never came.
Recompile is a dreamy and wonderfully cruel-looking world.
The once-grand program is crumbling away and the developers have captured this perfectly. The constant flickering of neon-infused platforms, and slow to render images, reflects the failing world. The mixture of dark tones and vivid danger colours creates an ominous and aggressive atmosphere that makes exploring each biome uncomfortable. You’ll enjoy powering each gateway while watching the energy surge to its destination. The bright greens lighten the darkened backdrop and offer glimpses of hope in an almost doomed scenario.
This sobering situation is enhanced by the calm and minor toned soundtrack. This slow-paced accompaniment reflected the hopelessness of the situation and was brilliantly juxtaposed with the aggressive combat moments. The high-energy scenes demanded that you acted quickly and thought out every move. The blazing sound of lasers firing or bullets being shot was deafening amongst the stillness of the empty biomes. The constant buzzing of energy and metallic sounds reflected the science fiction computerised theme to a tee, and I loved it.
Designed for a gamepad, but the darker tones make navigation difficult.
Phigames must be applauded for their well-conceived controller layout, and the brilliant mapping makes a complex game a pleasure to play. The fundamentals are quickly picked up and you’ll shoot, hack, and leap like a pro in no time. However, there is a dark cloud on the horizon! The desire to make a depressing and aggressive world comes at a cost. The lack of light makes jumping platforms troublesome and you’ll misjudge your approach repeatedly. This was infuriating and made me want to quit repeatedly. This emphasised the annoyance of the constant back and forth and made this mechanic a little more tiresome still.
Though I was driven mad by many of the traditional Metroidvania elements, I kept wanting to play. The addictive nature of the gameplay is excellent, and the upgrades to abilities expand the action. The multiple endings and array of approaches keep you on your toes throughout. The developers have done a wonderful job with the story and you’ll want to discover every secret.
Recompile is an excellent take on a well-trodden genre.
Fans will know what to expect, even if the futuristic theme is a bit of a surprise. I loved the presentation and the variety of environments on offer. The upgrades enhance the already interesting theme and the drip-fed story captures your attention. It’s free to try if you subscribe to Gamepass, so you have nothing to lose. I loved it and recommend you to buy it here! Can you discover the secrets that hide within the Mainframe? Solve puzzles, hack electronics, and blow your enemies apart!