I love 10tons’ games. I love them because they are simple. I love them because they are relatively easy to understand. I love them because they are fun.
So what’s the deal with their latest title, Time Recoil? A game that on the face of it, looks more confusing, more hardcore and more frustrating than any 10tons title that has ever come before it.
Well I’m not sure really, but then, perhaps we should never take things ‘on the face of it ‘, because Time Recoil brings together everything that the studio has excelled at previously. It’s just now they’ve decided to add a bit more depth and even more character.
A top-down shooter, Time Recoil will see you travelling from wormhole to wormhole as you hunt down the evil Mr. Time and attempt to save the world from the evil dictator. The time bending tale itself is played out through text based story boarding, with the majority of it seeing you gathering up information from a number of the world’s finest brains. Whilst it is a good attempt at setting the scene, it can get somewhat confusing. There are times when you’ll wonder exactly where the next twist is going to take you, and why exactly you are bothering to risk life and limb to travel through time just in order to kill some more bad guys. But on the whole, it does a decent job at setting the scene.
If I’m honest though, I haven’t been playing Time Recoil, and progressing through its 56 stages, in order to see a story unfold. I’ve been doing it because the gameplay is such great fun, fairly taxing and comes with enough new ideas to keep me fully interested.
The basic premise of each stage in Time Recoil is the same – hunt down an objective, grab it and get the hell out of there, all by producing a new wormhole and heading off to the next level. In your way are a ton of armed forces, with pistol, shotgun, rifle and grenade toting bad guys lurking on every corner. You’ll need to pick these guys off should you wish to progress – and it is here where the main gameplay mechanic kicks in.
You see, with each kill you make, time slows down, giving you the perfect motivation and opportunity to kill some more. Chain together enemy deaths and you’ll find that you open up all manner of special moves, allowing you to swiftly transfer through solid walls, taking out whatever is on the other side, throwing out Psy-Blasts in order to utterly destroy walls and enemies, or even freezing time completely to allow you to have a free run at the trickiest sections. You’ll need to combine all these techniques in order to really find the thrill of Time Recoil, and even though you could just take your time picking off one enemy at a time, it really does excel when you start to embrace the slo-mo action.
But there are two ways to enjoy Time Recoil… slow and steady, or hard and fast. Cleverly, both ways will bring the same amount of enjoyment, but it really does allow the game to open up to a bit of a speedrunning culture, if that is the way you prefer to spend your time.
Personally I prefer the slow approach but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to mix in a bit of fast paced action every now and then. For to be really successful with Time Recoil there will be times when you’ll need to utilise all options available to you.
Aside from the main story is the Mission Archive section. This lets you delve into each unlocked stage once more, pushing yourself to beat your previous time, giving you the chance to optimise your speedrunning techniques and enabling you to grab anything up to three shiny stars dependant on your times set. You can also compare yourself to others via the global leaderboards, giving Time Recoil even more replayability opportunities.
With the game pretty much set up for speedrunners to use and abuse, if you’re that way inclined, then I can see a huge deal of interest sitting in this one. Normal difficulty will no doubt be where the majority of gamers take in the action – especially as enemy bullets disappear when you make a kill – and you’ll be grateful for it too as this ensures that enemies react a little slower than those found on the Hardcore and Murderous levels. But should you wish to make things more difficult, then you can. Provided you’ve learnt the ropes first mind.
Visually and things are pretty neat. With a huge emphasis on slowdown, 10tons would never be able to get away with delivering a shoddy graphical style and that ensures everything in Time Recoil is crisp and sharp. Flying bullets and massive explosions are par for the course and even though there are times when things get a bit dark and it’s hard to pick out the enemies loitering in the shadows, on the whole I’ve been mighty impressed. That is except for some strange lag and stutter that has reared its ugly head on a few occasions. Thankfully those issues haven’t affected the game too much, and it seems to only affect certain levels where there is a lot of stuff going on at once, but it’s a bit of a shame nonetheless.
Unfortunately the audio that accompanies the entire Time Recoil experience doesn’t quite match up to the visuals or gameplay. The explosions and death cries are all cool, but I’d like a bit more variety in the constantly looping soundtrack that accompanies your adventures through time. Many of the levels will involve careful planning and multiple attempts, and there are times when that damn music begins to grate.
Other slight negatives on the whole experience surround the fact that the enemy forces are a little dumb at times (especially on the normal difficulty), and as long as you creep slowly around each area, you are very much able to pick off the bad guys as the screen scrolls, before they ever attempt to get moving. It occasionally makes Time Recoil feel a little cheap, and whilst it can’t be done for all enemies, and really does come in handy on levels that you’re struggling with, I’d prefer it not to be the case.
I’d also prefer a slight amendment in the button mapping for the controls, especially in regards the action button. ‘A’ enables you to skip through story based text conversations and lets you open doors and pick up weapons, but in order to press ‘A’, you need to remove your thumb from the right stick – a right stick that controls the very precise and quick reactive movements. At times the action is so fast and fluid that moving from stick to face button is a bit too tricky and cheap deaths have occurred.
But on the whole, I’ve hugely enjoyed Time Recoil. The control scheme works well, and whilst it’s not the best game that has ever implemented slo-motion mechanics (for me that’s got to be SUPERHOT), as a title that mixes up elements of that, bits of Mr Shifty and has a Hotline Miami feel, there are some very clever ideas included. On a personal level I don’t feel the need to put my patience to the test and play through the entirety of the Hardcore and Murderous difficulty levels – that’s not something I’d ever do with any game – but the huge story that is found will eat up many hours in the Normal format alone. Enough game variety ensures that 10tons have, once again, delivered the goods too.
If you’re up for a challenge, and fancy taking on a game that will let you play the way you want, then Time Recoil is well worth a look.