(The copy featured in this review was provided for by the developer)
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Corralling the tumultuous mistress that is time travel is a challenge that very few fictional properties ever truly succeed at. With such a swirling maelstrom of potential pitfalls lying in wait for the unknowing and unlearned, many authors, filmmakers, and yes, every game developers have been snared by the deceptively dangerous tendrils of time travel. However, once in a blue moon, a team of highly-skilled sci-fi experts gather together in a bid to create a fictional representation of time travel that is not only enjoyable to experience, but also mildly plausible and – generally – free of the mental turmoil that often surrounds such an intellectually perplexing concept.
10tons Ltd. and their latest Nintendo Switch release, Time Recoil, might just have cracked the formula to creating a time travel videogame free of the usual brain-busting sci-fi jargon. How have they done this? By eliminating almost all of the science by interweaving the concept of time travel into one the most simplistic and easy to understand game genres in the known multiverse – the twin-stick shooter.
In Time Recoil you play as a member of the Recoilers, a team of time-travelling International Rescue types who are attempting to free the world from the tyrannical grip of the evil Mr. Time. Thanks to your strange time travel powers that allow to traverse the swilling mists of time as many times as you want – to know what happens to everyone else, just imagine a heated romantic encounter between a sledgehammer and a watermelon – you must attempt to stop Mr Time before he destroys the world, both in the past and the future.
It’s a story that is, admittedly, extremely unsophisticated, though, in a way, this is one of the game’s greatest advantages. By keeping things simplistic and avoiding inundating the player with unnecessary and confusing sci-fi gobbledygook, Time Reoil manages to establish itself is a rather enjoyable narrative experience. It’s like an old Hollywood monster movie. Not particularly sophisticated, but hugely entertaining thanks to its easy to understand plot and characters. Think of it as a cross between Doctor Who and the Terminator which all the campiness and corny dialogue you’d expect from such a glorious marriage.
However, given that Time Recoil is a twin-stick shooter, gameplay is undoubtedly the focus here, and I’m glad to say that, for the most part, Time Recoil manages to deliver on that front also. The principle mechanic in the game is the ability to slow down time by killing enemies, an effect that only increases as you eliminate more, until the very fabrics of time cease to move altogether, pausing time itself for a brief second as you frantically avoid the lead-tipped death spiralling towards you. It’s an intriguing mechanic, one that helps differentiate that game from the countless hordes of generic twin-stick shooters out there, creating an intoxicating experience that feels rewarding and fun to play. I always look for fluidity when I’m playing twin-stick shooters, and Time Recoil is about as fluid as they get.
The art to Time Recoil is trying to chain your kills together, a tactic which allows you to quickly and efficiently race through the impressive number of levels in the main storyline. As you progress you’ll unlock new abilities that are available upon chaining together enough kills. These are invaluable in later levels where failure to do so will be met with instantaneous death. You need to play this game at a rapid pace, and any dillydallying with certainly result in bulging veins and flying Switch consoles.
As a whole, Time Recoil’s gameplay experience is an enjoyable one, full of challenge and exotic abilities. However, some of this challenge, admittedly, stems the console itself. The Switch’s Joy-con controls are simply too imprecise to offer the smoothness needed for a game such as this. The twin-stick shooter requires pin-point procession in its movement, allowing the player to effortlessly ping between approaching threats with the grace and speed of a mayfly dancing in the spring rains. The Switch is just simply unable to offer to level of precision that is required, and as such it is difficult to recommend this interpretation over either the PC, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One version.
Another area of concern is that random nature of the weapon drops, especially in later levels. Though you’ll always start each level with a pistol, in order to finish one, you’ll undoubtedly have to pick up the weapons dropped by enemies. These can range from shotguns to assault rifles and even explosives, each of which the dramatically alter the feel of the game as well as your chances for success. Here lies the problem. I often found myself, upon killing an enemy, left in a situation that is all but impossible to complete due to type of weapon dropped by said recently deceased goon. In these instances, you are pretty much faced with an instant game-over scenario, which can become frustrating when you are several minutes in to a very challenge level. It does allow for a more dynamic feel to the game, but, frankly, I’d rather the game toss aside such unpredictability.
In all, Time Recoil is an enjoyable twin-stick shooter that manages to, somehow, fit perfectly with the complex concept to time travel. While the controls and game mechanics can be frustrating at times and the humour is slightly too self-deprecating at times, you’ll undeniably have a blast time hopping your way across the post-apocalyptic ruins to 1980s sci-fi Europe.