Recompile is a game I've had my eyes on ever since I saw a GIF of it a few years ago on Twitter. Something about the graphical style is entrancing in the same way that watching clouds pass you by is calming, or listing to the waves break against rocks is relaxing. It's just beautiful, and I've been waiting ever-so-impatiently for it ever since I discovered it.
Well, Recompile is finally here, and it's just as fascinating as it looks. You take control of a program designed to infiltrate tricky systems, and you do so by moving around a digital world, assimilating new code into yourself to gain new abilities, and then using those abilities on everything around you. It's a Metroidvania, basically, but one that has a different vibe to most other games in the genre.
First of all, just the setting of the game makes it stand apart from many others. Being within the digital world allows for a different feeling completely. Everything's almost serene a lot of the time, with the music almost resembling something from a story-driven walking sim. It's odd, but it also makes it incredibly easy to lose yourself in the environments of Recompile.
Shooting is too old-school
This isn't a walking sim though, because you will be fighting things. You'll gain new abilities as you go which can be used against the firewalls and anti-hack programs that want to stop you from succeeding in your infiltrations attempts. These are fun, and I definitely enjoyed using them, but for me, the game's far more about using your Recompile ability to hack things.
You see, this is a digital world, and you're basically a hacking program, so it makes sense that you can interfere with the world around you. You can do things like make sure circuits work as you need them too, which is useful, but you can also interact with doors, lifts, and basically everything else. I mean everything else too, if an enemy is giving you a lot of hassle, you could always try hacking them to have them fight for you instead of against you.
You've always got options, and for me and plenty of other players, that's the thing that they're looking for in a game. It feels as though Recompile rewards you for thinking as though there is no box, and it's hard to beat that kind of satisfaction.
I can see something
Now, the gameplay is good, but honestly, the best parts of the game for me were the way the world around you unfurls and reveals itself, and the story. Everything reacts to you, which means that you'll be able to see fuzzy glitching pieces of scenery ahead of you, but when you draw close, they'll form new platforms, walls, or barriers. It makes exploration worthwhile because you can constantly uncover new paths just because you were curious.
The story is just as free-flowing as well. Along with the narrator reacting to what you do a la Bastion, there are even multiple endings, and a plethora of ways for you to influence the world around you in positive and negative ways. It all feels completely natural too, because why wouldn't everything react to you like this when you're in the process of having the system?
As you can probably tell, Recompile is rather special. The mix of the stunning aesthetic, beautiful music, fun combat, and interesting hacking systems all make for something that feels different to any other Metroidvania I've played before. I really like it, and the fact that it's so open and full of potential means this is the kind of game people will be telling their own stories about for ages to come.
Reviewed on PC
Review code provided by the publisher