Cyberpunk found its home in fiction through the world of Tron, and existed well before that. Though the genre has fit the mainstream mold with games like Cyberpunk 2077, Ghostrunner, and in the case of my review, Recompile. As a semi-sapient program, there is a daunting task ahead of you. And there will be obstacles in your way. See what you can achieve in the 3D platformer Recompile from Phigames.
The title is available on Steam for $17.99 at a 10% discount. It will return to $19.99 when the sale ends. It is also available on Xbox Series X|S for $24.99. It will be available for PS5 at a later date.
Recompile Review: Delving Into the Mainframe
During my review of Recompile, I found the storyline is quite easy to follow. A sentient program must work to repair a mainframe. In this cyberscape, rogue AI and anti-virus programs are running rampant. This translates directly into gameplay. And as certain parts of the story became clear, you’re left wondering what became of humanity. Unravelling this mystery among all else that’s happened, reveals an uncomfortable truth that feels disturbing, albeit earned.
Repairing the mainframe to save information isn’t your only subroutine though, and these added processes bring out true care for your character. With the stakes being your AI existence, and that of your allied programs, this feeling is further accentuated. It left me nervous knowing that my only lifeline existed in a character named Janus. Anyone could tell you they’re responsible for your existence, which left me with an unending wonder. What does this person want, and why should I even trust them? Do they have my best interest at heart? The whole thing almost reminded me of Tron: Legacy, in a loose sense at least. It left me wondering if the programs within my system “observe” from within. Or if they could pose a threat later on in the future.
Putting an End to Hostile Code
For a 3D platformer, Recompile’s key mapping felt quite familiar. It had traditional third-person shooter controls, though this only came into effect as I progressed. The most important part, of course, was the upgrades (otherwise known as installations). It was an unusual concept at first glance, but finding new ‘upgrade codes’ in my Recompile review gave the title the feel of an RPG.
None of these installations were easy to get, making them a core aspect of progression. Traversing through the environment was its own monster. Walkways were already quite thin, but hostile programs made these adventures quite stressful. These tumultuous paths lead to important items called “core memories”, which were made easier to acquire thanks to the assistance of Janus.
With that being said, I often found these pathways to be much too unforgiving. Twitch your character in just barely the wrong direction, and recovery will be nigh impossible. And with pathways being so small, it made enemy encounters much more difficult. Ironically enough, melee combat could’ve remedied this a bit, as considering positioning with ranged attacks did no favors.
Recompiling was of the greatest importance, though, as it helped to connect the broken segments in the mainframe data. This is no easy feat though, seeing how quickly enemies moved. Luckily, this mode would actually pause time and allow you to assess the situations you end up in. This relief was integral to success.
A Digital World
My favorite part of Recompile was by far the visuals. As a virtual world, it shared next to no similarities with real life. The semi-sapient program is a simple thing, made up of a stack of simple white blocks. And yet, I found myself caring for this mere block stack all the same. The rest of the title replicates this feeling, with lines of code-breaking when actions either didn’t make sense, or other processes were damaged. It isn’t going to win any awards for realism (and frankly, it isn’t trying to) but its adherence to this style is quite commendable.
The choice of music was interesting as well. I went in expecting nothing but tones with a cyberpunk feel. Unexpectedly though, Recompile combines both cyberpunk and the classical genre to convey the emotions of the mainframe. As a classical enthusiast, hearing piano music did a great deal to lighten the sometimes frustrating mood of the title. Classical music and a story centered on certain doom just mesh so well together. Battles, of course, change what track you hear. Depending on your sound settings though, this may prove to distract at times. Classical music during the fights might be entertaining as well. I feel it could add to the ‘action’ aesthetic of it all. Cole McGrath fighting The Beast in inFamous 2 is one battle that has a classical music feel.
All of this atmosphere is rounded with some great optimization settings, though there’s something worth noting. The settings you choose are not automatically saved once you exit from the game, and while that may sound alright as a simple “Apply” will fix this, each exit from the program resets anything you mess with. I hope to see a patch that can remedy this in the future, but time will tell. Most games save these settings automatically or with user input, and this one did neither.
Recompile offers a solid 3D platformer, all in all. The game combines third-person action with a digital cyberpunk aesthetic. While the visuals were amazing at times, gameplay proved frustrating more often than not due to such restrictions. During my Recompile review, I found checkpoints throughout the game. They are useful to mark one’s place after completing a list of tasks. However, if you were to lose 100% of your program, it required re-tracing more steps than I would’ve normally been alright with, no matter how far I ended up going. Even when pathways were clear, enemies could still knock you far enough to send you plummeting. I did genuinely enjoy my time with the title, don’t get me wrong, but I can see where there might be room for improvement.
In the event that games easily fluster you, Recompile isn’t a 3D platformer I’d recommend, though I can see some enjoying this frustration in a strange, hopeful sort of way. All in all, despite Recompile’s shining faults, cyberpunk and platformer fans are sure to find enough to enjoy.