When someone utters the words “top-down” shooter to me, I’m almost instantly filled with the joy of those golden days, playing GTA, GTA London and GTA 2 on PC, just mowing folk down, never seeing their faces, never worrying about their lives before the moment I met them. Otherwise, it’s not a genre I’ve found myself playing, or certainly one that’s impressed any further memories on me. That’s not to say I’ve avoided these games, I’ve just not found myself in a situation where I’m set to play one. I missed out on Hotline Miami, which I’d kinda like to get to at some point, and I’ve not really had anything else pop-up on my radar in recent memory. Enter Time Recoil.
Created by 10Tons Entertainment, Time Recoil is a slick and quick shooter, with a lovely aesthetic and action that some games would die for. With very little in the way of introduction, you’re thrust into a world of time travel and chaos (the chaos is great). You’re immediately tasked with getting free from your prison, in 1974. As the protagonist Alexa, you have abilities that leave you not only impervious to the side-effects of time travel, but to use the flow of time to your advantage. Straight out of the gate you’re shooting your captors, and getting a kill slows down time, allowing you to quickly get others in the same room.
“Twin-stick” shooters aren’t exactly a favourite of mine, thanks namely to the reaction time required to be effective. The thing in this game, is that one shot means you’re dead, so I started to dread aiming with one thumbstick, and walk with the other. Time recoil completely eradicates this issue though, by using the slow-time mechanic, allowing you the required breathing room to line up your shots.
A few missions in, and you’re getting new abilities, get a couple of kills, and suddenly you can literally dash through walls and people, tearing them apart and allowing for some really nifty map-traversal. Between that and the psy-blast, you’re well equipped to get through any area pretty swiftly, again only ever getting killed if you’ve made a mistake. With certain weapons that can shoot through walls, you needn’t even enter a room sometimes. Everything comes together really nicely, it all just flows and works in unison. You’re incredibly vulnerable, but you’re also incredibly powerful and the only person to blame when you die, is yourself.
Considering I’ve been travelling through time, between the 70’s and 80’s, the maps all look super-clean and modern. That’s not a criticism, frankly, I love how it looks, and the simple, elegant lines and colours make it very easy to see where you’re going and what you’re doing. Being colourblind, this is especially crucial to me. The blood splatter slowly coming out of your victim as time slows, is really stylish and honestly, very cool. It’s not super-gory, but there is blood, and it is spraying everywhere when you start killing bigger groups of people.
To top off the look, the audio is cracking. It reminds me of the old Amiga games I used to play as a young boy. Kind of retro-futuristic. Like how we thought music in the future would sound. It doesn’t disturb the game in any way, it just compliments the action without ever becoming overbearing or repetitive.
Well……I guess there’s a narrative, but it does nothing more than service the action. You’re after “Mr Time”, so douche that used you as an experiment back in the day. Once you’re free from your 1974 prison (Mr Time sent you here from the future), you’re essentially moving back-and forth between time to impact the future, by making changes to the past. This generally involves showing up somewhere, killing everyone or recovering documents and items. Let’s be fair, it isn’t going to win awards for the story. It’s kind of incidental to the action, though, so it’s no big deal.
I’ll be honest, I’ve only played this through on “Normal”, usually I’d dive straight in on “hard” and go for it, but my co-ordination on twin-stick shooters is terrible, and I knew I’d rage quite well before the end if I forced myself to make it even harder. To be fair, “normal” is a good challenge, I’ve sat restarting levels 10-15 times until I’ve got it right. Always my fault. Always. The AI isn’t mean or unreasonable, it’s pretty good. They see you, they shoot you or chase you. Simple. If you die, it’s your fault. Precision and timing are crucial. I’d suggest that each level is actually more of a puzzle game, than an action-shooter. You nail the timings, and learn where everything is in the short levels, and then it all clicks and you clear it. Sometimes death is your best tool to have a shot at finishing a stage. Learn, die, repeat.
Levels are really short (as in doable in under a minute for a lot of them, if you do it perfectly), which makes them perfect to replay over and over, just for fun. Better yet, there’s a time attack mode where you can push yourself to beat levels within certain times, and really refine your approach. Very cool! It’s totally replayable, over and over……..if you’re into twin-stick shooters. The problem I personally had is that I struggled in some levels to the point of frustration (with my ability, not the game), so I wasn’t to thrilled at the prospect of re-living the pain.
Time Recoil is a slick, well-made top-down twin-stick shooter (how many hyphens?!). It looks great, it handle with precision, the abilities and the impact of time are wonderful, and it sounds really nice. It isn’t my favourite genre, but I’ve had a lot of fun in the 4-5 hours I’ve spent playing through it. Finishing a level is really satisfying, after repeating a level for 10 or so minutes, and there’s plenty of cause to dive back in and try to improve your times. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a well-made, good-looking game that enjoys precision and timing. Hell, I’d recommend it to anyone!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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