The time is right.
Imagine my delight when I discovered that the people behind the fabulous shooters Crimsonland and Neon Chrome made another top-down affair. I’ve always been a huge fan of their work! And I was even more ecstatic when I heard that the central mechanic is slowing down time whilst players shoot down dozens of enemies and destroy their surroundings. It sounded like it would be Crimsonland mixed in with Superhot. It’s sure to be a home run, right? Right? Well, it is. Uhm. For the most part, anyway.
Stepping into the shoes of a certain Alexa, players find themselves working for a time-travelling organization called the Recoilers. They task Alexa with stopping a cataclysmic event in the past, orchestrated by a crazed scientist. This isn’t a simple case of going back in time and killing him in his cot, mind you, but instead an elaborate scheme that’s executed bit-by-bit through various time jumps, a tad of detective work, and a seemingly endless amount of ruined buildings filled to the brim with brainless gunmen.
A temporary problem.
Alexa will be travelling throughout the fourth dimension, but her influence will not be subtle. She’ll be pulling the proverbial strings of time and bending it ever-inwards, as killing itself influences your ability to make time malleable. And while a single kill will slow down time to a point that you can move around in microtime like Neo from the Matrix, wracking up a string of consecutive kills will reward you with additional time-manipulating abilities, such as a deadly dash or a bomb. Indeed, chaining together combo kills in ever-increasing numbers is the bread and butter of any discerning, murderous time traveler.
While this may sound like the game is overpowered, rest assured it is not. As is typical in twin-stick fashion, enemies are brutal and death is often a single projectile away. Thus, players are expected to approach every level tactically: barging in and thinking a spray of bullets will solve your issues is very ill-advised. You’ll be rage-quitting unless you grasp the order and manner in which to kill minions, all while dealing with the elasticity of time itself. This is particularly true when you take into account that killing *too many* enemies might mess up your plans and force you to restart a level. This comes into play during some sections which require a bit of problem-solving in order to break up the twin-stick monotony, but honestly, it’s more frustrating than fun. It’s also strangely juxtaposed to the pace of the core game mechanics.
Racing against the clock.
Ultimately, whether or not you enjoy it is dependent on whether or not you enjoy a good, old-fashioned twin-stick shooter. Despite the thrown-in time mechanics, it’s still largely a case of shoot. Shoot. Shoot. And then shoot some more. And it’s not like there’s a great story to back it up; in fact, it may as well be an afterthought that largely gets in the way.
Everything looks pretty functional, though I can’t describe it as the most beautiful example of graphics I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong: the graphics are perfectly fine, but alas there isn’t anything to make this world stand out or be particularly memorable. It’s definitely cyberpunk, but a lot of the gameplay takes place in rather drab corridors and simple rooms. After a few missions, you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer, and sadly the time-travel schtick isn’t enough to sustain interest for such lengths of time. As for the audio department, I’m sad to say that the sound and music too are equally functional and equally forgettable. But it remains a right bit of a lark and a definite recommendation if you enjoyed Neon Chrome and assorted other games in this genre over the years. In fact, it’s almost like Hot Line Miami, but at a slower pace.
Time Recoil is another top-notch top-down shooter from developers who clearly have a very strong grasp on how to make these kinds of games. The temporal mechanic makes for an interesting change of pace, as players are required to make more dangerous kills, and this gives the affair a very different feel to its older siblings. It’s a bit shallow, but that’s mostly par for the course in these games. If you’re any sort of shooter fan, then Time Recoil seriously needs a place in your library. Shoot on over to its official Steam page to see about adding it now. That is, if you think you have enough time for it.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch ; Publisher: 10tons Ltd ; Developer: 10tons Ltd ; Players: single-player ; Released: the 10th of August, 2017.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key for Time Recoil given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.