Recompile is a unique platformer with an immersive, if confusing, visual design.
While technology can be a light that guides us into the future it can also become our greatest folly. It’s the users who will ultimately decide which direction the fate of humanity takes, because you can’t always blame the tools for the work of the craftsman. Whether modern conveniences or cataclysmic horrors, machines and software may eventually bear more human-like qualities as programs and simulations slowly become more visceral.
Recompile is an action-adventure game that uploads you as a program into a three dimensional cyberspace network. It’s up to you to configure your way through the system by platforming onto switches to unlock new areas and bypassing any walls, obstacles or enemies. In doing so you’ll be helping your programmers uncover the truth behind a high tech facility caught in the grips of a tragic war.
As everything within the software universe is represented in three dimensional space, your program takes the form of a being of light and data. As you explore the cyber realm, updated bits of code are installed as upgrades that grant new weapons and eventually enhance your abilities like the mid-air dash. Enemies represent bits of security software that try to stop your entry as you wield weapons that erode away their coding to delete them. The focus of gameplay however, is less on combat and more about bypassing your way through the 3D logic riddles while maneuvering on various floating objects in a hypothetical environment.
The environments explored within the facility’s cyber network are made of data but materialized in sculpted three dimensional block models. The landscapes and platforms take on abstract shapes as they weave in and out the greater network of machines and software found within the futuristic installation. Cyberspace is divided into different areas like the security center and the life sustaining biodome, each with its own set of malfunctions to work around and scattered with remnants of those who once worked in the futuristic facility. The overall theme is where there’s a firewall, there’s a workaround.
Whether or not you can resolve problems in the area depends on how you overcome the series of logic based puzzles. Jumping onto switches will cause them to activate and send signals down sets of pipework circuitry and will often trigger the appearance of new paths, doors and platforms. In other cases multiple switches must be activated to forge a road ahead and can even trigger trap circuits that will constantly spawn enemies until turned off.
Exploring the unique perspective of cyberspace is a surreal drama as the visuals are bathed in the glowing colors of an old monochrome computer screen. Objects and shapes that make up the environment don’t take on much detail as they obscurely represent various blocks of data you might find written in software.
The soundtrack also takes on an avant-garde form with moody synth sounds, some cacophonous piano, and little use of melodies or drums. The music creates a sonic parallel to the generally malfunctioning nature of the environment.
While the introduction to controls is short the game gets off to a slow start when it comes to action. After installing the jump function you’ll have to dodge your way through the first few enemies before stumbling into the first digital bit blasting weapon used to delete your foes.
The levels are digital versions of ancient destroyed ruins and generally resemble clay bricks or other stones so It’s often hard to tell which is the correct platform or road forward and which unlocked abilities are to be used where. While the retro style theme of the menus and other graphics are fun to look at, the map that resembles an old Text file doesn’t assist much when addressing the verticality of the environments or the web of plumbing style pipes involved with the logic switch puzzles. It’s a strange way to discern where important areas and gates to the next area are located.
Like every platformer, Recompile will come with some falls. The pathing through the game requires a degree of critical thinking as well as trial and error. Accessing new areas and maintaining a sense of direction can be difficult, especially when returning to the game from different localized save points without many identifiable landmarks between them or a fast travel system to make backtracking easier.
It’s easy to get stuck when focused on small areas and not take into account strange workaround paths presented, especially when tracking down the more secret items. There’s also a specific visual effect used that makes objects jitter and glitch around in a way that could be considered an eyesore if you’re not into the idea that this is what a broken system would look like in cyberspace.
These strange frame skipping patterns are initially used to catch your eye and lead you toward progress as these objects can frame polygonal platforms while your familiarize yourself with areas early on. Later the same effect is used to form hazardous zones and walls that will cause you to explode on impact.
The nature of this computerized cyber domain is much more cerebral than it would lead on. While gameplay does rely on platforming across holograms and abstract art, the movement doesn’t compare to more fast paced shooters like Doom because landing the jumps just feels more difficult at slower speed. There are weapons that digitally emulate things like pistols, shotguns, and submachine guns that are used to blast away at enemy software, but combat doesn’t always feel rewarding until further in the game because of the trapped switches that will trigger enemy spawns until turned off. Triggering these switches is especially punishing while returning to previously explored areas.
Recompile is creatively a lot similar to the code video games are made of. The experience culminates into some unique storytelling as notes from people outside the complex machine workings tell a cutting edge science fiction story. Unearthing new bits of code, fixing the machines tied to your programming and repairing the facilities feels like a contemporary work of art that offers an innovative challenge for those willing to deep dive into the logic puzzles of its digital world.
-Intriguing representation of cyberspace
-Three dimensional logic puzzles
-Obscure soundtrack and gameplay style
Some glitching effects might come off as
Slow movement makes platforming feel shallow
object textures lack visual details
3 out of 5
Review code provided by PR. Recompile is out now!