The Double-A Team: Recore's signature move is pretty wonderful
The Double-A Team is a feature series honouring the unpretentious, mid-budget, gimmicky commercial action games that no-one seems to make any more.
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Recore's special thing is very special, if you ask me. This is a game about shooting robots, each of which holds a sort of glowing orb as their core. Shoot them enough and you get to extract the core - pull out the heart - while they're still alive. Loot and a finishing move in a single go! And the extraction! The Extraction is pretty wonderful.
I would say it's a bit like fishing - you chuck a line into the core, get a purchase, and then pull. I would say that, except experience has taught me that what it's really like is suction birth. The little sucker clamps on and then pull! They call it Kiwi birth in some hospitals. It is not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but in Recore the same motion is undeniable. Pull the heart out of that robot! Nice loot! Nice finisher! Now onto the next thing.
That's the main thrill in Recore, if you ask me, although I like the particular robot companion who clamps on to railings and pulls you around at great speed. Beyond that, what remains is a very likeable shooter and exploration game. You're on a world that's awaiting terraforming. You scavenge stuff, wander about with a range of robot pets, all of which can be upgraded and swapped in and out for special moves and special attacks. You encounter malevolent robots and engage in colour-matching combat with them, using a gun that fires a range of different coloured ammo. Now and then there's a boss. The whole thing unlocks outwards: it's a Metroidvania.
Combat is fine, and it's joined by some increasingly challenging traversal moments. At times, as you're in a dungeon leaping from one platform to the next, the whole thing feels a bit like Mario at its most deadly. But you have a double-jump and a dash you can chain together, and those robots and doohickeys down in the dungeons mean that you're always learning to incorporate new elements into movement. Recore is pretty generous, and fairly inventive.
This shouldn't be surprising, of course. The design team includes veterans of Mega Man and Metroid. Neither of those particular heights is scaled here, and there's an overwhelming problem that most of what you're shooting at feels in Recore like tinfoil. Equally this is one of those games where you're constantly opening treasure chests and never finding anything that exciting inside them. But it doesn't matter. The maps are wonderfully large, the overworld has a lovely sandy kind of sci-fi feel to it, and the bugs you encounter are pretty easy to forgive.
So while Recore isn't a classic, it's got a cheery sense of character to it. And then there are those cores, waiting to be extracted. Loot! And a finisher! All at once!