Time Recoil from Finnish indie studio 10tons is a twin-stick shooter in which players travel back and forth through time on a desperate mission to prevent the destruction of Paris. With an intriguing sci-fi story and challenging gameplay, it's one of 10tons' most hardcore games yet.
10tons is best known for its casual games like Spellspire, but the studio has also published two stellar twin-stock shooters: the simple-but-addictive Crimsonland and the more complex Neon Chrome. Time Recoil definitely follows in Neon Chrome's footsteps, looking and playing similarly but with a much different story and game structure.
The story is told through text-based dialog and occasional interactive flashbacks between each of Time Recoil's 56 missions. You play as a female scientist who gains superpowers through a temporal experiment. Not only do these powers allow her to survive time travel (which nobody else can in this game), they also give her special combat powers.
Our time-cop works with a team of freedom fighters that resist the evil and uninspiringly-named Mr. Time. His terrorist organization destroyed Paris and seemingly subjugated the world with their advanced technology. Our heroine must make repeated trips to the past to investigate Mr. Time's crimes and steal research that will help her eventually jump to the Paris bombing and stop it.
Between missions, she'll visit the resistance base and talk to various NPCs. The thing is, the only NPCs you can talk to are the ones who give you the next mission. The rest stand around silently (and can be pushed around the area with no reaction). If we're going to bother visiting the base so often, it'd be nice to have some optional conversations and things to do besides just talking to the mandatory NPC every time.
Time Recoil's actual levels play similarly to those of Neon Chrome. They're nice and short, lasting anywhere from 20 seconds to a couple of minutes. But you'll get plenty of playtime out of the 56 levels because they're also quite challenging. Our heroine is a one-hit wonder who will die if anything hits her. The game even reports how long you lasted before sending you back to try again. Thus most levels will take multiple tries and sharpshooting skills.
Weapons carry limited ammunition, so it's important to make each shot count. You have a melee attack, but it's nearly worthless due to poor damage and range. The heroine can only carry one weapon at a time, too. These don't have much variety but include such mainstays as a pistol, assault rifle, and submachine gun.
Level goals tend to involve killing all enemies, recovering documents or technology, or rescuing friendly NPCs. Once you've accomplished the goal, you'll summon a wormhole that transports you back to your base and original time. You manually target the location of the wormhole, which will destroy any nearby structures and enemies when it appears. It's a fun little mechanic that plays to the game's sci-fi premise.
The protagonist also gains powers as she progresses through the game, though most aren't so much time powers as regular old superpowers. Having unlocked an ability, you earn a single use of it by killing enough enemies within a short period. Luckily, each skill slows time for a couple of seconds, making it easier to rack up combos.
You'll get a lethal dash that goes through thin walls, a dash blast, a psy blast that destroys enemies and switches, and a time freeze. The tutorial text that explains these powers is sometimes inadequate, so you might earn a power and not even know how to use it without some experimentation.
Modes and Achievements
The Xbox One version of Time Recoil features a scant 15 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore.
The main game offers three difficulties, and you'll have to play through it three times to get all the Achievements. As you might expect, the higher difficulties get really tough! Beating the game unlocks the ability to replay levels, which is good for mopping up optional Achievements you might've missed, such as killing four enemies with a wormhole or shotgunning three enemies in one blast.
The game also features a time attack mode that challenges players to earn fast completion times on all 56 levels. This would be cool, but the time targets are frustratingly strict. Unless you fall head over heels for Time Recoil, you're probably not going to get the Achievement for 3-starring the time attack levels.
Compared to its predecessor Neon Chrome, Time Recoil falls a bit short. The campaign structure is too linear and doesn't give you any larger goals to work towards other than advancing the story. The powers system is a bit unintuitive and would work better if it didn't require kill combos.
Still, the actual levels are challenging and fun, and the story and music are quite good. If you really dig level-based twin-stick shooters like this, Time Recoil is a solid purchase – after you've finished Neon Chrome, that is.
- The actual shooting feels great.
- 56 short-but-tough levels.
- A simple but engaging sci-fi narrative propels the game along.
- Uninspired art and highly repetitive environments.
- Time powers are poorly explained and unintuitive to use.
- Campaign structure is too simple and doesn't inspire replay.
Time Recoil costs $13.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
Xbox one review copy provided by the publisher.
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