Developer Trent Garlipp • Publisher Trent Garlipp • Release November 3, 2022 • Reviewed On PC
Ultimately a story about reflection, RE:CALL gives players — as the self-loathing Bruno Gallagher — the power to change the past. Each chapter contains creative ways to use mysterious reality-altering abilities while revealing more of the engrossing story. Favored characters turn villainous and hated enemies become teammates in ways that kept me guessing up until the finale. Running just beneath the bravado of its popping visuals and youthful tone are deeper themes, like empathy, acceptance, and connection. However, RE:CALL’s shining star is its signature, choice-centric gameplay.
Chapter one is a perfect introduction. I don’t know who I am, how I got to be in a small, ominous room, or what I did to earn an armed guard at the door. But I do know the boss is coming, and I’m not going to have a good time. It may not be the most illuminating start, but it immediately establishes tension and mystery — two of my constant companions throughout RE:CALL. Then my interrogation begins.
Telling the story of my infiltration teleports me away from the threatening office and back to the entrance. It soon becomes clear that this isn’t a simple recreation as my interrogator prompts me to make my first choice: Is the door being watched?
I have three choices. Each decision causes not only the past to shift, but alters something in my current predicament. Did I find a missing gun or a rock during my earlier mission? One option means the office security detail is unarmed. Do I want one door to be unguarded during my infiltration? That causes another hallway to swarm with underlings, making it impassable. It takes several attempts to piece together the solution that allows my current-day self to get out of the room safely, but each loop goes faster with my gained knowledge and is nicely designed to avoid repetitive dialogue and setup.
Then it turns out that the character I play in the beginning isn’t even the protagonist. Rather than the slick, bad-guy-eliminating operative, I now control a depressed, slightly pudgy homebody. This unexpected swap is a wonderful way to get me into Bruno’s mindset.
Thinking I would be an over-the-top agent, I — like the hero — am underwhelmed by the reality. With no friends, a junky apartment, and nothing really motivating him, Bruno’s home life is a mess. It’s a brilliant bit of direction, and the story doesn’t take long to come knocking. Literally, there’s a knock at the door. After a quick encounter with a bully and my crush, I find myself once again being questioned by an imposing figure, and the past-changing begins anew.
Over the course of multiple, inventive chapters, I unravel why I’ve been gifted these weird abilities, how they came to be in the first place, and the conspiracy that connects everything together. While at times the more juvenile dialogue — and one, slightly frustrating, area — had me worried the game’s threads wouldn’t stitch together in a completely satisfying way, RE:CALL stuck the landing. In its customary fashion, the ending is dominated by a choice, which means different possible conclusions. But whichever way the player leans, this is a game well worth experiencing.