At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey PS Vita Eiconic Games Eiconic Games 1
Requirements Also on...
None. Android, iOS

Total Recoil review

At the moment I'm writing reviews for two games on the PlayStation Vita that represent its two different approaches. On the one hand there's MotoGP 13, a boxed game selling for about £30 that matches the full feature set of its home console and PC siblings. Aside from a drop in visual quality, it's a bit like having the PS3 version with you on the go. This seemed to be Sony's vision in the early days as the handheld saw versions of big console franchises like Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and Resistance in the early days. Total Recoil, however, represents the other approach, the fresher strategy that Sony have been taking in recent months as part of an effort to kickstart the underperforming device. It's a smaller title from an independent studio selling for just under £2.

Originally an iOS and Android game, Total Recoil seems at home on the PS Vita as it was always designed with twin-sticks in mind. That's because it's a top-down arcade shooter, with a heavy emphasis on sensory bombardment over realism, and while the mobile/tablet versions have virtual sticks on screen, you get to use the real things here which immediately make it more gratifying to play. The Vita's touchscreen still gets use, however, as you pick up coins dropped by downed enemies and destroyed obstacles by pressing them on screen, and there's also a weapon whose rockets are controlled using either the rear touch pad or the front touchscreen. It's also possible to interact with the different parts of the HUD, essentially revealing a range of menus, and unfortunately it seems to be a bit too easy to accidentally trigger these while trying to frantically pick up coins in the middle of the action.

Both stationary and moving enemies are thrown at you in each wave

Both stationary and moving enemies are thrown at you in each wave

You'll want to pick up those coins as they are the game's vital currency, used to upgrade your weapons and abilities. Without them you'll find it very hard in the later levels as you need to up your health, armour and firepower in order to survive the onslaught. Unfortunately while there are many, many coins to pick up on each level through the main campaign, their value is a little too low, making those important items a bit too difficult to obtain. If the purchase price wasn't so steep then you wouldn't have to spend so long grinding through some of the earlier levels multiple times in order to get the currency you need. This is exacerbated by the need to pay coins to heal (although medipacks are occasionally dropped by enemies), and it's quite a big bounty if you need to an extra life to avoid having to start the level again when you die.

The high prices probably come from the game's freemium mobile origin, where it carried a £0.00 price tag but offered microtransactions so you can pay real money for in-game currency. For your £1.99 on the PlayStation Store you get a version that doesn't feature the ads of the iOS and Android editions, but there are still options to be able to buy the coins with real money and Total Recoil seems a little too eager to bring that menu to you. Not that I could ever get it to work, so I don't know what the costs are actually like. Still, the game never makes such purchases essential, but sometimes the slow pace of gaining ugrades might make you feel like they are.

The flamethrower is my favourite weapon as deals widespread havoc

The flamethrower is my favourite weapon as deals widespread havoc

The main campaign features a good selection of levels where the difficulty steadily increases, partly through the addition of new, more cunning or powerful, enemies as well as an increased level of franticness. Eiconic have not bothered with too much story, but that's a good thing, as this Total Recoil suits quick bursts of arcade mayhem. The combat is fun, and the waves of enemies do keep you on your toes, particularly if you want to get the bonus for completing the wave before the timer runs out. Power-ups help to counter some of the onslaughts, although they are often based saved for the boss battle at the end of each level. Over time, however, you may find that the series of waves followed by a boss battle setup becomes a too familiar formula, so it's best to stick to playing the campaign levels in shorter bursts, which is thankfully a natural fit on a portable device. Having said that, sometimes you don't want all that manic action broken up into chunks where you need to keep diving back to the menus or worry about upgrades, and that's where the survival levels come in, as you tackle a continuous run of waves of enemies. I actually found these to be more fun, with a thrill developing as you reach the higher numbers and you worry about imminent failure. It's also a great way to pick up lots of coins without too much hassle.

While multiplayer would be a nice addition for a future iteration, more noticeably missing from Total Recoil are online leaderboards. While it has trophies, as all PS Vita games do, it does seem to be an odd omission considering the game's heavy focus on kill counts and coin pickups, and it would help drive replayability as you compete with friends. Still, each level has objectives (including hidden items) which encourage you to go back and do better, and there's also a progression system driven by completing certain challenges, such as finishing a wave with a turret, that encourage you to play through the levels multiple times and seek gratification beyond mere progression.

While it may not be the most original of Vita games, or the most elegant, and there are a few niggles I've mentioned, Total Recoil is still a solid entry for a handheld that has been finding its place this summer. There isn't anything like it on the PlayStation Store, and if you like top-down shooters then £1.99 seems like a small price to pay for a generally enjoyable experience.

Ratings

Overall The upgrade pricing is too steep, and leaderboards seem to be a major omission, but otherwise Total Recoil is a fun arcade shooter for a bargain price. 7/10

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