Time Recoil is the latest joint for 10TonsLtd, a developer that we’ve been following for a while here and it follows the template set by one of their earlier games, Neon Chrome, which you might know as a recent PS+ freebie. After cutting their teeth on basic physics puzzle/arcade games like Tennis in the Face and Baseball Riot, Neon Chrome was the Finnish dev team’s first attempt at a game with depth of gameplay and a solid story.
The game was a top-down twin-stick shooter with roguelike elements and we liked it. I personally carried on playing it long after I reviewed it, eventually getting all the trophies, and ending up with a deeper appreciation of the game than I first expected to get from it.
As with that title, Time Recoil is also a twin stick shooter but it eschews the roguelike mechanics and slow but steady upgrading and instead focuses on a much more indepth story.
Set in the late ’80s, Time Recoil presents a world that has been terrorised by Mr. Time, a man who used the discovery of time travel to take over the world, using various cities as examples of the damage he could do if he wasn’t given his way. So, now (well now in 1987), Paris is aflame and your character, Alexa, has been selected as the person to set this all right. Thanks mainly to her ability to come back from the past, something that no-one else has been able to manage. This allows you to travel back and forth in time as you discover how Mr. Time took over the world and figure out a way to undo all the damage.
The story is told via text passages and to be honest, it wasn’t long before I stopped caring about it. Time travel plots can often paint themselves into corners and eventually I realised wasn’t at all engaged in it. Especially as you jump back and forth through time a lot which makes the plot extremely muddy after a while. It also gets in the way of the action, acting as an arbitrary barrier to getting into the next level. Also, you only really jump around in the ’70s and ’80s. I’d have liked to have seen you go back and forward hundreds of years, fighting in various settings rather than the same old boring office blocks.
The game itself also uses time as a gameplay gimmick and, thankfully, it does a pretty good job of it. Killing an enemy slows down time for a short period. This makes the game seem quite easy early on, and it is, but there’s depth to the game and its level design that eventually becomes apparent.
When Alexa chains kills together (before her slo-mo runs out), she gains power ups that can be used. Kill two enemies while time is slowed and you can dash through walls and enemies. Kill four and that dash will set off a blast to take out more enemies. Kill six and you can place a blast nearby, clearing your path.
If you chain eight enemies, time stops for a while. This allows you to pass guards safely or navigate obstacles that otherwise cannot be traversed. It adds a nice puzzle element and shows off another side to the game. Seemingly impossible situations suddenly become manageable and these moments are enjoyable when triggered and while you can play most of the game’s fifty levels as a straight shooter, this will just get you through the game’s story. The good scores (and trophies) require smarter play.
A level may have a three star time of four seconds but this takes into account time slowing. So while it might take upwards of thirty seconds to perfectly clear that level in real time, the game understands that you slowed, or froze, time and suddenly the game becomes about chaining enemies perfectly. Precision play becomes key if you want to beat these time limits and that’s great. It adds a depth to the gameplay that you wouldn’t ordinarily get from a twin-stick shooter (apart from Nex Machina, which is just as smartly designed as this).
While the speed-running aspect didn’t appeal to me that much, there were points in the game where you needed to build that 8x multiplier in order to progress through an otherwise unpassable door and I did appreciate the puzzle-minded thinking behind these parts. The levels are cleverly put together to allow for those kind of combos, however it does all become about trial and error and memorisation rather than good old twin-stick shooting skills.
The only problem is that between the muted graphics, the complicated and fussy plot and the fact that your times are only really relevant after you’ve beaten a level once, only hardcore players and fans of this will want to go back and replay these levels over and over. Some of the later levels are hard enough to just get through, so the idea of trying to perfect them may seem like a barrier to three starring everything in the game.
The game’s levels take place in a lot of similar-looking environments and while Neon Chrome had this problem, it also had a lovely Blade Runner aesthetic where as this game seems to have swapped out the dark neon look for something a bit more pastel-coloured and while it doesn’t change the game, it does make it look a little less interesting.
The truth is, I preferred Neon Chrome with its constant action and wide array of weapons and perks where as Time Recoil puts its story up front and keeps the action a tad more repetitive and broken up. Your mileage may vary though if you really work at mastering those levels and it could all be very rewarding.
Ultimately, Time Recoil isn’t quite the game I was hoping for but my issues with it are all design based. It’s a solid, capable game but just not set up to be as fun and dynamic as Neon Chrome. Dig deeper though and you’ll be rewarded with some clever level designs to strategise your way through.
+ Good use of bullet-time
- Bland visuals
- Repetitive action