I am not old. I’m what my aunt calls a “damn millennial,” but some things make me feel grizzled, and one of them is a good, old-fashioned platformer. ReCore on Xbox One — a collaboration between Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune’s Comcept and Armature Studios — is a fine, new example of the aging platformer genre. Though it’s not terribly inventive, it’s a hell of a throwback to my favorite games of yesteryear with a fresh coat of paint.
It shouldn’t be surprising that ReCore — for all its current-gen visuals — plays like something from way back when. Inafune, who’s had a tough break with Mighty No. 9, at least knows, historically, what goes into good platformers and understands their essence. As soon as the game started, I knew instinctively to double-jump by tapping A twice without the game telling me (it does so, anyway, just in case). When the game introduced rapid dashing, I knew to do so after a double-jump to leap over exceptionally wide cliffs. These are basics that can be taken for granted, and ReCore strips these down back to formula.
Even Mack and the companion Corebots ultimately don’t offer a ton of variety. Cute and quirky as they are, at the end of the day they only seem to add surface-level personality and easy — if also satisfying — bonus damage to stronger enemies. Instead of outfitting Joule with wicked, long-barreled guns, her Corebots are a less testosterone-y alternative. (Joule still has gun upgrades, of course, but the Corebots are a somewhat bigger deal and most of the game’s marketing hook.)
For many, ReCore will likely feel tired, even inoffensive. Aside from harvesting cores, there’s nothing radical in ReCore. The few aspects of ReCore’s modern sensibilities (i.e., recharging health meters and ammo, piecemeal upgrades) feel worn out. Just a few weeks removed from No Man’s Sky, I groaned when I saw Mack’s upgrades requiring varied colored cores.
And yet, there was a pleasant calm in my journey through New Eden. Every jump and satisfying kill reminded me of Aladdin on the Sega Genesis, Sly Cooper on the PS2, or Crash Bandicoot on the PSX; and they were some of the best platformers I’ve played. It was revelatory. Recent years have given us a variety of high-quality games — Overwatch, Dark Souls, Her Story, Life Is Strange, anything Telltale puts out — but ReCore reminded me how effective the tried and true still are. In a way similar to how I’m not old, ReCore is not new. I wouldn’t have it any other way.