PC, Xbox One
ReCore is a defiantly likeable mess of a game. Its systems are a tangled thicket of ideas that sprout fruitlessly in a half-dozen directions. The platforming is flimsy and the combat underwhelming. Its central mechanic is disappointingly anaemic, and the entire experience has got more padding than an elephant's mattress. And yet, I keep finding myself wanting to play more of it, even while I'm playing other, objectively better games.
This is because although ReCore may not be a great game, it's an alluringly charismatic one. ReCore places you in the sandblasted exoskeleton of Joule, an engineer stationed on the desert planet of Far Eden as part of a colonisation mission from Earth. The game beings shortly after Joule emerges from a 200-year cryosleep, whereupon she discovers the colonisation efforts have gone severely awry. The other colonists have seemingly vanished, while the planet's surface is roamed by CoreBots, robots designed to help in the establishment of the colony, which in the interceding years have all gone a bit GLaDOS, attacking humans on site.
Plotwise it's fairly standard video game fare, but it makes up for that with its lively, upbeat tone. Joule is a bright and chirpy protagonist, her optimistic outlook curiously undimmed by the wreckage of humanity that surrounds her. The script is also sharply written, and while I wouldn't exactly call it witty, it possesses a refreshing forward momentum, pushing you ever deeper into the great desert of Far Eden as you attempt to unravel the mystery behind the fate of the colonists. In its first couple of hours, ReCore brings to mind stories like Tintin or Indiana Jones in pacey attitude toward adventure.
It helps that the world itself is instantly arresting. Far Eden's desert world is a combination of sandy plains, strange rock formations and vast, broken machinery, strongly reminiscent of Jakku in the most recent Star Wars film. These dramatic, wreckage-strewn vistas, filled with nooks and crannies that contain hidden treasures, make Far Eden a place you immediately want to explore.
And it's in exploration where I think ReCore is at its strongest. Although visually ReCore resembles a Western action game, in both structure and style it's more aligned with the 3D Nintendo platformers like Mario 64 and post-Ocarina of Time Zelda titles. ReCore's world is a semi-open one, divided into several hub-like areas, with the action split roughly 50-50 between the open landscape and linear underground 'dungeons'. Like the overworld, these are similarly visually enticing, twisting caverns merging with metal corridors illuminated by fluorescent blue crystals.
Most of the fun I had in ReCore came simply from navigating my way to the next objective, be it traversing one of those complex subterranean cave systems, or picking my way through the wreckage surrounding a massive drilling platform. All the while, Joule comments on her surroundings or chats with her trusty Robodog companion, Mack. ReCore's world is simply a great place to be, and during the game's quieter moments I found it both endearing and compelling.