RE:CALL review: a unique narrative adventure that makes you think twice
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Featured Image Credit: Whitethorn Games
If you had the power to change the past, what would you do? Would you avoid your painful experiences? Or would you delve into the other possibilities that could have unfolded if things had gone differently?
RE:CALL is a visual novel-style adventure which explores this exact concept. Our protagonist, Bruno Gallagher, is a normal guy with a normal life, until he becomes a key witness in a murder case. Upon giving his testimony, he realises that he’s been imbued with a strange power - the ability to alter reality by changing memories. From causing a completely made-up friend to manifest in reality, to removing physical objects blocking his path, there are seemingly no limits to what he can do.
Except, Bruno isn’t the one doing this - you are. Your existence as some kind of otherworldly, controlling entity is acknowledged within the game, which leads to a number of genuinely brilliant fourth-wall breaks. Think more Undertale than High On Life, these acknowledgements of the player are delivered in a serious and almost spooky manner rather than as an easy comic relief method, and it’s genuinely fascinating to watch the story unfold while playing such a key part in it.
While RE:CALL certainly leans into the visual novel genre, it’s by no means a simple text-box-reading experience. Each chapter of this indie gem presents you with a puzzle (or series of puzzles) to solve using your reality-bending powers. While Bruno talks through his memories in the present, you can wander around and explore them at will, talking to the people within them and gathering more information to feed into the story.
You’ll often be presented with a choice of how to ‘remember’ something, but don’t get it twisted - there’s basically always a correct answer you’ll need to go with in order to progress. Whilst you can explore different outcomes bygoing with alternate answers, you’ll ultimately be forced to answer in a specific way. This is by no means a bad thing (figuring out the correct way to approach these situations is really satisfying, actually), but this puzzle-solving aspect shouldn’t be confused with a ‘decisions-matter’ game where your choices have long-lasting consequences.
None of the puzzles are overly difficult - some you might see the solution to before the game actually allows you to carry it out. Even so, all of them felt fulfilling - although I did experience some glitches in the last full chapter of the game which made progressing clunkier than it needed to be (without spoiling anything, it doesn’t prompt you to try holding the ‘Y’ button on Nintendo Switch to get past a certain section).
As far as the story itself goes, it’s really intriguing, but I won’t delve into it any more than I already have for the sake of spoilers. All of the characters are really well written, each nailing distinct and memorable personalities in the game’s respectable six-to-seven-hour runtime. RE:CALL certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome, although admittedly there were a couple of plot points that I felt were skimmed over a bit too quickly, and I still had some questions as the credits rolled.
On top of that, pre-launch, I spotted dozens of typos littering the text. These errors might bother some individuals more than others - most were fairly minor, but on one occasion I stumbled across a sentence that was particularly difficult to make sense of. While these mistakes aren’t absolute dealbreakers, in a text-heavy, story-centric game, they aren’t going to go unnoticed.
Visually, RE:CALL is a treat - the gorgeous pixel art character portraits pop beautifully on the Switch OLED’s screen and help give even more personality to the cast of characters. The game’s retro-styled world admittedly takes a more simple artistic approach, but it still looks lovely, and the chibi-style overworld sprites are really rather cute.
In spite of its flaws, RE:CALL is a really enjoyable time. Its reality-bending gameplay mechanic is distinctive and presented in varied ways throughout the chapters so it never gets overdone, and some of the characters have a surprising amount of depth to them - there’s also some genuinely moving messages about growing from negative experiences. It might not be one of 2023’s most anticipated titles, you shouldn’t let this unique indie pass you by.
Pros: An intriguing plot, memorable characters and a very pleasing pixel art style
Cons: Quite a few typos in the text, a couple of bugs that disrupted gameplay
For fans of: Ace Attorney, Undertale
7/10: Very Good
RE:CALL releases for PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch (version tested) on 17 January. Code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here