December 20, 2012 5 Comments
Heavy Recoil harkens back to the good ‘ole days when games would kick your ass with a steel-toed boot. This is also known as the period before I was born, so the nostalgic value of Heavy Recoil does absolutely nothing for me. And yet, when I see a game that does a pretty convincing job of looking like an 8 or 16 bit era title, I usually get excited. That’s typically because such games seem to go that extra mile towards having good level design and awesome play control. So does Heavy Recoil succeed? Yes, at least when it comes to looking like a Super Nintendo game. If I hadn’t known it was on XBLIG and saw a trailer for it, I would have thought for sure it was an SNES title that I had never heard of. And after playing it, I would have guessed I had never heard of it because it was shit.
Heavy Recoil is a 2D platformer/shooter where you play as a robot that must shoot other robots. While I’ve recently developed a love for robot-on-robot violence (courtesy of Brian introducing me to reruns of Robot Wars), I question the logic of building a weapon that is so damn limited or worse than what the enemy is using. The protagonist robot can only shoot whatever is straight ahead of it. I’ve had a lot of people say “some games were like that! Would you call Mega Man shit?” Apples and oranges, people. Mega Man was more nimble than the robot you play as here, which wasn’t given a name or any back story at all so I’ll just call it “Phil” because that’s about the most boring name I could think of on five seconds notice. Phil can barely jump, unless you get a power up that allows him to do it. Given the fact that many valuable items are placed well above your normal jumping range (along with plenty of enemies), this was a bit of a dick move.
In order to get jumping, you have to pick it up in an item drop. This in and of itself is a problem. The item that has it rotates between it and a useless dash upgrade, requiring you to time when to pick it up. Typically, that’s not too hard, but sometimes it’s obscured by something in the foreground and you can’t see it. It’s frustrating enough that the game considers decent jumping to be a bonus that players have to pick up without having to deal with blind-man’s bluff. I had the same problem with the secondary weapon upgrades. There’s four: grenades, lasers, homing missiles, and rockets. No matter which you have, they’re weak. They can’t even break apart the barrels that you pluck them from. Grenades are probably the most useless of the bunch. They’re good at blowing up annoying landmines, but otherwise everything they can kill is already right in front of your gun anyway. Of course, your bullets can only travel about four or five character-lengths in front of you. Why? I have no fucking clue. I can fire rubber bands further with my thumb-and-index finger pistol than Phil can shoot ballistic weapons. To fix this mistake which should have been corrected out of the fucking gate, you can pick up a laser that shoots all the way across the screen. Well la dee dah!
Rockets and homing missiles are more useful, because they can attack things above you. They still mostly suck on account of them doing about as much damage as popping an inflated paper-bag next to your target. What really sucks is, like the jump-or-dash upgrade, you can only have one. Why? I don’t know. Using these items doesn’t require a special button press. They just fire when you shoot your gun, which has to be repeatedly mashed because holding down the button would be too convenient.
I get that games like this used to be a big deal and people long for the days when you had three lives and if you lost them you got to start all the way back at the beginning. But even then, sometimes those games could be fun. Contra for example. I could never quite put my finger on what exactly made Contra fun, but now I’m guessing being able to shoot upwards might have something to do with it. And mind you, Contra had that whole “shoot in directions other than straight forward” innovation down three fucking years before I was born, so Heavy Recoil can’t really claim the retro-mandate for pretending that upward mobility doesn’t exist.
But even if you could, it wouldn’t be very fun. Everything here is just so bland. The levels, the enemy design, Phil. That’s why I said Heavy Recoil would be remembered as a bad lost game from a bygone era. I’m not saying I expect neo-retro games to be better than the classics they were inspired by. What I’m saying is don’t make a retro game in a retro costume. Make a modern game in a retro costume. Take advantage of what we’ve learned over the last twenty-five years of consoles. Some concepts are more popular than others. Firing in more than one direction is such a concept. Do you know what happens when you forgo technological innovations in favor of rehashing old shit that nobody cares about? That’s right: you sell 400,000 units of your latest hardware on launch day.
Okay, bad example.
80 Microsoft Points admit Heavy Recoil is an awesome name for a game in the making of this review.