Recompile doesn’t give it’s best elements enough time to shine. Backtracking is a staple of metroidvania that feels fun with its own twist here. Combat takes a backseat as its unsatisfying or can be completely avoided. The lore is what shines best here although some might miss it since it’ll feel like reading a big wall of text. Recompile in concept is great but this code could’ve used some revisions to really stand out.
I remember stuff here and there from a demo of Recompile I played long ago. What stuck with me from the demo and in the final release of the game is the unlimited traversal. It made total sense that something digital could move within the space as it wanted.
Recompile engaged me with it’s writing. I did end up caring for the characters I was reading about. This is easy to miss as it’s presented in lore fashion. You parse through found fragments of data that reveal conversation logs of some crew. Program both in name and function, is a silent protagonist; there’s enough happening around them that has me engaged. The problem for me is this could easily be skipped by someone and the main dialogue in the game is just surface level—go here, go there.
Each area in Recompile has its own distinct look and color palette. There’s a security focused level that respawns enemies protecting the area. Which happens to be one of the more naturally thought out levels. I’m imagining the eco themed level protected by enemies that multiply and attach to Program which would slow you down for example. Instead all areas share the same enemy type.
Recompile equips Program with three upgrade categories: Traversal, Deletion, and Hacking. These three pillars felt flat by the time I reached the end. Recompile never really tested you to use them in tandem. In fact if you’re midair there’s no way to use deletion. As for hacking I used it only a couple of times to escape combat.
Recompile has some of the best traversal for a game in a while. Looking back the progression of jumping to then upgrading the amount of jumps felt great. There’s a dash move that upgrades this way as well. It all ends in an eventual unlimited number for each and also adds in a flying upgrade.
This whole traversal upgrade while satisfying in how it progressed throughout Recompile felt wasted to me. It was earned too little too late. Ignoring collectables, only one area necessitated this unlimited travel. It would’ve been great to see a secret area that fully explores this moveset. Maybe it’s my full enjoyment of flying to wherever I wanted that makes sound harsh; I was eager to show off.
Combat felt unsatisfying. I’m curious how the fighting would feel if Program wasn’t bound to only attacking while on the ground. Recompile’s action feels claustrophobic for no good reason. Even more so when enemies close in and now you can’t move the camera quite right because they’re too close. You’ll move but then the same thing almost immediately repeats.
It’s worthwhile to go for Recompile’s “perfect” run as the end game sequence is exciting. To get this you have to backtrack and collect all the logs from each area. In the hub world there’s a way to check your progress if you don’t upload your currently collected logs. So avoid that until you have them all since there’s no other way to check progress.
I leave Recompile wanting more but not for the right reasons. What’s here isn’t fleshed out like I wish it was. Recompile features fun traversal and thoughtful written audio logs that aren’t enough to overcome it’s underbaked code.