The narrative of Story mode is clandestine to start, but reveals happen as you move through chapter events. The jist of it is there’s a nefarious actor by the moniker Mr. Time that has taken control over most of Europe. As a member of the Recoilers, your mission is to travel through time by way of wormholes, collect data or high value targets, and bring them back to HQ while merking any fools whom try to intervene! There’s a comic strip style motif to character drawings and caption bubbles with persistent 1980s zest. The tale is enough to give justification for the action, but don’t expect to get roped into it past perfunctory acknowledgment.
Time Recoil plays less like a true twin stick and more like a 3rd person action shooter with a skewed perspective. I say it’s less-than twin because the right stick is only used for aiming and doesn’t shoot; that’s delegated to right trigger. The obvious comparison to draw is Hotline Miami. When playing, it feels much like the aforementioned classic with some notable differences. Ostensibly, “bullet time” is stirred into the gameplay mix. Capping a baddie launches a few seconds of slowdown, making subsequent shots easier and strafing away from incoming fire a possibility. Stringing together kills unlocks enhanced abilities. For instance, turning a double play nets a dash, allowing you to “jump” a short distance in a straight line, slaying all in the flight path. With six in a row, you’re given a Psy-Pulse, an AOE attack which implodes any objects to vapor, humans included. Time Recoil does have a permadeath lite system, meaning one bullet sends you to the retry screen a la Hotline. This invariably creates the trial-and-error mechanic which gives games of this ilk a puzzler edge. Figuring out the best order to frag enemies is essential to survival. Add in those advanced moves and assorted special mob like grenadiers, and this process has a fair amount of varied complexion.
As you progress, they’ll be better weapons laying about like SMGs you can swap for your eight round pistol. By the by, I think the weakest part of gameplay is the paucity in ammo. Some incapacitated enemies will drop bullets in varying amounts, but you can’t keep a surplus, meaning if your pistol has 6 rounds and you gait over a +5 pickup, you’ll only collect two and the remaining three disappear. It would seem the thought behind this design decision is since slow-mo is plentiful and makes hitting targets easier, limiting available rounds will make the player more selective, and in turn, create a deft challenge. Good in theory, but it’s a needlessly frustrating mechanic in practice. Another ding are mob movements. Sometimes it seems their behaviors are sporadic in this regard, if not full RNG in a given space. And with a rinse/repeat pattern, the knack for dawdling serves as an annoyance when trying to nail down the best route. With all of this in consideration, sometimes a little haste does the player good. Mind you, careful plodding on nascent attempts in a new area should be observed. However, if you find yourself stuck after a multitude of attempts, try a more guns-a-blazin’ approach just to see how that goes. Couldn’t hurt at that point, right?
There are some really good aspects about Time Recoil’s presentation package. The visuals are on par with “smaller” games that aren’t buttressed by a huge budget and dozens of designers. Character/ environmental models are simple, color palette is basic, and the destruction events aren’t flashy. But there aren’t any glaring weaknesses or shortcomings, either. From a visual standpoint, there are no staunch eyesores. Huge plus for this indie title. In the audio department, simplicity is the arrangement. Sound effects pull from a lean, although effective reservoir. No clipping or strange echo issues; everything is firm and proportioned. A small caveat are the alert mumbles from aggro-ed enemies. When they notice you, they’ll expel an unintelligible grunt that does wear on the senses during extended sit downs. I did dig the music quite a bit. The soundtrack has his fitting ’80s synth vibe that acts as an appropriate pulse to the on-screen action.
In truth, the good outweighs the bad by a good margin. Time Recoil is an astutely put together effort that’s functional as a game in every respect. Sure, some out-of-step functions here and there are highlighted by the general flow of repeated failure. But as a cool application of the rules refreshed by Hotline Miami, it works very well.