Time Recoil is a top down shooter that sees you manipulating time as you blast enemy after enemy throughout your mission to save the world from Mr. Time, a mad scientist turned evil dictator. It’s as simple a story setup as they come, and if that’s what you’re here for, a solid story that will engage you from beginning to end, look elsewhere. Time Recoil may have some solid mechanics at its foundation, but is that enough to see this game standing the test of time? I highly doubt it. You take on the role of Alexa, one of many Recoilers and someone who has been trusted to travel through time to collect data or take care of specific targets as you move through the journey at hand.
Time Recoil houses twin-stick shooter elements, but instead of going on a rampage and shooting everything moves, there’s a surprising level of strategy to be had. Alexa has a small collection of powers that she can utilise depending on specific situations, for instance, killing an enemy will grant her with a few seconds of slow-time. This can indeed be chained by multiple kills to extend the length of slow-time, which in essence gives you more control over the fields of play, but this isn’t the only gift at your disposal. If you manage to strike a double-kill, Alexa will gain the ability to quick-dash, which can again be strengthened with more kills. There’s also a psychic blast you can initiate after popping six kills in rapid succession. The gameplay is tight and these cool functionalities almost feel like a dialled down version of Quantum Break, which is high praise indeed.
Ensuring that Time Recoil isn’t a mindless twin-stick shooter like many that have come before it, you’ll hit the dirt if you so much as take one bullet. If that happens you’ll be sent straight back to the start of the level, but thankfully the stages in Time Recoil are short and sweet. That’s not to say it’s easy, far from it, I died several times and almost pounded my controller against the TV as a result. It’s a frustrating experience that will either make you or break you, regardless as to how neat the mechanics are. It doesn’t help that ammo is so loosely handed out, meaning you’re forced to play this game tactically during the slow-down of time. That’s not a complaint, merely an observation that I felt pressured into playing this game in a very specific way rather than enjoying it at my own pace.
The further you get into the game, the more weapons you’ll stumble across. You can swap out the pistol you’ve been carrying for something more devastating like an SMG. Regardless as to what firepower you equip yourself with, ammo is still going to be an issue. On top of that you cant hold more ammo than the capacity of your weapon, meaning that if you send an enemy to an early grave and he drops a set amount of ammo but you only have five spare bullet slots in your chamber, you will only pick up five bullets from the stockpile whilst the rest disappears. I assume this system has been put in place to emphasis the aforementioned tactical play, but it does induce rage when the difficulty curve starts spiking in the latter stages of the game.
There’s a total of over 50 levels to work through, each of which climbs in difficulty by a slight amount. I say difficulty loosely because much of your time will be spent working out which is the best method of approach rather than going in all guns blazing, this is where the Time Attack mode will shine at its brightest, giving players a small portion of replay value as they suss out the most effective route. Touching back up on the story, this is served to you in a comic-book fashion being that the plot is delivered via text captions. I’ll reiterate that the plot isn’t all that interesting and is further let down by the (more than) predictable conclusion.
Visually, Time Recoil doesn’t do much to impress. It may indeed be satisfying utilising all of the cool powers within and watching the walls explode as you blast and manipulate time, but it’s a fairly basic ordeal. Character models and the environmental design could have been much better, and for a game that has time travel at its core, the developers didn’t really do a good job at relaying the difference in the eras you travel to and from. It’s all very flat and stale, which is something that can also be said about the soundtrack. What 10tons have done here is craft some excellent gameplay mechanics without reinforcing it with an interesting story or well detailed visuals. This is what pulls Time Recoil from greatness, and it’s a shame, because this could have been much more than what it is.
Time Recoil houses some very interesting and satisfying gameplay mechanics through the use of manipulating time to overcome your enemies. The gameplay typically relies on tactics and strategy rather than just spraying and praying, but it works well in its favour for the most part. When you group this with the lack of ammo handouts, this does however force you to play in a very specific way, which almost robs you of the freedom to play how you want to. Unfortunately the story isn’t all that well realised, and when you tie this to the poor uninteresting visuals, it makes Time Recoil a very hit and miss experience. The asking price is well set, but despite getting so much right with the functionality of play, there’s just too much it gets wrong to justify a strong recommendation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.