Every game should have a dog in it. The games that do use a canine friend as your companion always make me smile, while giving added emotional investment in the story. Fable 2 with its terrible doggy end choice, Fallout 4 and the best post apocalyptic best friend a person could wish for. I think the FIFA series should have dogs in the story mode or maybe running around in training sessions. EA haven’t got back to me about that yet though.

Recore has a dog as well, but it’s a robot canine called Mack and it’s a highlight of this always surprising game.

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Recore is an unusual game because it’s hard to describe exactly what it is. It falls between the two worlds of interesting indie game and AAA Microsoft exclusive. The game is a mixture of Zelda, Enslaved and Lost Planet. Its £30 price tag puts it directly in the middle of the price tag of an AAA game and a high end indie title. So what is it? And is it fun?

You play a girl called Joule, who has woken up after two centuries of cryo sleep on an alien planet called Far Eden. The planet was meant to be terraformed over that period by its robot slaves, but something has gone seriously wrong and some robots have rebelled. The world is half finished with underground dungeons filled with big boss robots, out of reach platforms, and dangers hidden across the desert planet. All the humans have disappeared as well, so you’re left with your trusty robot dog, Mack, to try and find out where they’ve gone. Along the way you find notes from your father, the chief scientist, which lead to clues for the main story. It’s a great story that is full of unique characters, writing and design. The world is also intriguing enough to explore for a while and find all that it has to offer.

You can explore the open world after the first few missions, with secrets and all sorts to search out, or you can just follow the main story. You have a rifle that levels up as you progress and it has four attachments to discover. Each rifle attachment has a colour; red, yellow, blue and white, and each enemy robot has a colour and attribute assigned to it (there is a reason for this in the story) so you swap your attachment mid battle depending on whom you’re attacking. This can be tricky at first, especially when you have loads of different robots of different colours attacking at the same time, but actually it is a nice cool concept.

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Another exciting bit of the gameplay is when you’re trying to extract the core from an enemy. You go into a kind of tug of war/fishing sim mode, whereby you have to try and pull out the core of the robot while not rushing or breaking the rope. These cores are what make the robots tick, and you collect cores for upgrades throughout the playthrough. It’s a very neat trick and never gets boring, no matter how many times you need to action it.

The other big element of ReCore’s gameplay is in the platforming. You jump and double jump to get to higher areas, and combined with a dash button, it makes for a highly skilled platform experience. Sometimes the levels require a big helping of platform skills to traverse across, especially when you combine them with a friendly robot that pulls you along some tracks. It’s a mechanic that works very well and feels very comforting in an old school way.

The main story takes you from area to area and follows a template of exploration, shooting, platforming and a boss fight. The open world element means you can tackle bits of the world at your own pace whilst looking for secrets and things to do. You have dungeons that need a certain number of cores to enter them and these can be found in areas around the map. There are also blueprints to collect to update your robots, which is a fun and addictive element.

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But for all its good elements, lets talk about the big problem in the room. The loading times.

At the time of writing this review the developers are trying to patch the game to make these loading times much quicker than what was present on release day. Some areas saw me having to wait for what seems like two to three minutes for the game to load up. In a really hard (for me) boss battle, every time I died, which was a lot, I had to wait that long for the game to reload. This unfortunately makes me want to just give up and throw in the towel. Another couple of times the game might freeze or I would die and be placed back somewhere completely different. But apart from this, generally the game is a pleasurable experience and I found the gameplay never got dull or repetitive.

In the looks department, ReCore can be spectacular, but also at times a bit generic. The desert planet of Far Eden can look great with its mix of rocky, sandy, landscapes with the decay of robotic civilisation all around it. Sometimes like the most recent Metal Gear game I get sand blindness and long for something else. A tree, a flower…some water. But the characters themselves are really well designed, from the humans to the brilliantly clever robots. I love Mack, I want to take him home – but I’m not sure my real world dog would agree. The sound is a great mix of effects while fighting with its robotic clicks and whirls, whilst the score is almost John Williams in its grandeur and scope. The Strings score and atmospheric notes are ever so inspiring while traversing levels across the stunning landscape. The voice-over work is solid and in a strange way a bit old fashioned.

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Overall I really enjoyed my time with ReCore and in Far Eden. The story is good and the gameplay is both fun and enjoyable. It feels very familiar but also at the same time it gives me something completely new in my gaming experience. There’s a fair chunk of stuff to do in the game, which takes you around the 12-hour mark, something which is great for the price. The bugs and loading screens are a pain, but if they get sorted soon I would highly recommended anyone to dive into it and give Mack a nice robot bone.

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