Glitchy code

One of the best things about being able to get lost in a “Metroidvania” type game is the way the game itself will push you to want to complete just one more level before bed. Varied levels filled with beautifully detailed worlds, that just invite exploration not just for puzzle solving or loot hunting but sometimes just to show off a beautiful vista that may not otherwise be seen. Well Recompile is a “metroidvania” type game that places the player in control of an anthropomorphic program who must avoid deletion while saving their friends and stop the AI Hypervisor in a mainframe of unknown origin. The elevator pitch for this game sounds great, with lots of possibilities. Sure, gamers have seen the inner workings of computers in film and games in the Tron franchise but not like this. Recompile puts them on the ground level, they will be completing circuits, running across cables and stopping glitches all with a very unique and minimalistic art style.

One of Recompile’s strengths comes from its story, while the game quite literally drops the player into a mainframe that for reasons unknown is in danger of being deleted…with the player being the savior. The contact into the outside world is known as Janus, they work as the “guy in your ear” so to speak helping actions. While the story sounds like an excellent set up for a series spy game, the reveals that are meant to be grand just end up falling flat; instead of feeling grand it just feels… deserved. While that may not make sense, once the story is experienced it will. As interesting as I found the story, I was thankful that the overall game was short because try as I might, the gameplay is where this one seems to glitch out.

MSRP: $24.99
Platforms: Xbox (reviewed), PlayStation, PC
Price I’d Pay: $14.99

First off, due to some strange design choices from the indie developers at Phigames, I didn’t find out that I could actually avoid direct combat in most instances until much later in the game. You see, players are meant to be able to hack enemies instead of fight them head on with an ability called Recompile. While players receive this ability in the early hours of gameplay and its explained that they can use it to freeze the screen and move a cursor around to hack nodes or enemies, but they don’t actually get to use them until they are unlocked via an upgrade. As I said, it makes for a peculiar choice to give an ability to players and explain its use but keep them locked out of it until later. Something that can provide a completely different play style for this game should have just been unlocked from the outset. Especially considering this is a game that is literally about choice.

Combat is not awful in the Recompile, it just feels like an afterthought. While each weapon name fits the hacking theme of the game, such as the machine gun like Delete and the initial weapon, Disrupt; none of the weapons feel very powerful or even hit with any sort of impact or “umph.” But that’s not even the worse offense honestly, when in combat getting hit I couldn’t tell where it came from and if I was facing off against multiple opponents I could be deleted in no time.

Lastly, while I really dig the computer, glitchy, DOS-era effects of Recompile it just seems odd for a game that is tagged as a “next gen” experience it be so strangely dark and shadowy. The bits of code, and electrodes and even the little program that players control all glow with a very neon-like, warm feel. But for a game that is part platformer, one will frequently miss jumps not due to the inability to time the button press but the inability to see where the landing spot is. Another head scratcher indeed is why the lighting is so sparse, especially when its at the detriment of the player. I can’t tell you how many times I missed leaps due to not being able to judge the distance correctly due to darkness.

Recompile is not an awful game by any means, but it is not much more than the sum of its parts. While the exploration works, its hindered by the spotty level lighting; you have a good assortment of weapons but putting them to use is underwhelming. Its almost as if for every step forward Recompile takes, it insists on taking one back. However, the saving grace is that its not a long journey through the motherboard, that is to say it is thankfully pretty short. So those folks that are forever chasing those achievements can rack up some score here, and its on Game Pass which makes the cost of admission even better. If you enjoy ‘metroidvania’ type games and you don’t mind the issues then there is fun to be had here, and you don’t even have to go digging in the dark web to find it.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Unique graphical design
  • Uneven combat
  • Poor lighting for level traversal
  • Weapons feel lackluster
Written by
Terrence spends his time going where no one has gone before mostly. But when not planning to take over the galaxy, he spends his time raising Chocobo and trying to figure out just how the sarlaac could pull Boba Fett’s ship with its engines firing FULL BLAST into it’s maw with relative ease; yet it struggled with Han Solo who was gripping *checks notes* SAND!