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Review: Ultratron

PC Steam Puppy Games Ultratron

Developer: Puppy Games
Publisher: Puppy Games
Platform: PC (Steam, Web)
Release Date: March 18, 2013
ESRB: N/A (E suggested)


A download code was provided by the publisher for this review



The children growing up today will, sadly, probably never know what an arcade is. Heck, some of those reading right now may have never had the pleasure of visiting a real arcade. Regardless, we’re at least all aware of what they are and what purpose they served in the 80s and 90s. Children and teens would flock to these cramped, dark spots to experience games with them fantastic graphics, addictive play, and unusual play mechanics. I bring this all up because Ultratron is undeniably an arcade game. So, will players be able to appreciate it or simply cast it aside?

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If you’ve ever played Robotron 2084 (or other twin-stick shooters) then you have an idea of what to expect. The game takes place on a single screen where enemies pile in from all angles. Players take control of a small robot fighting off the hordes with bullets, lasers, bombs, and even your own small robot army. The twin-stick nature of the game comes in with your little robot being controlled by WASD keys and bullets being aimed and shot by the mouse.

With this description, it may not sound entirely different from existing games of the genre. One of the biggest features of Ultratron is that there is a shop which gives you access to upgrades. The shop is only accessible in between stages and offers upgrades to weapons, as well as necessities like shield regeneration. From the shop players may purchase various droids to help them in the fight as well, each with their own upgradeable strength and intelligence. While most upgrades are fun, the shield one in particular is annoying as later stages will see you wasting hard-earned coins on shield rather than new upgrades.

Where does the money for upgrades come from? It’s simply dropped out during combat by felled enemies. Just shooting them doesn’t net you a monetary reward though. In order to rack up funds, the player has to wander up near the glowing orbs where an enemy once stood to collect them. There are upgrades to make it so you don’t need to wander directly onto them to collect, which is worth getting. This is because when the field is getting seriously filled with enemy bots it is much harder to safely traverse the entire screen to collect goodies.

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That’s where another very distinctive feature of Ultratron comes into play. The visuals stand out as both retro and modern, which one thing Puppy Games is known for. They are retro in that everything is comprised of pixels. Modernness comes in when you consider that the entire game looks like some sort of colorful drug-induced madness. Bullets spewing everywhere where enemies march toward you make for a very visually-stimulating experience. To some, over-stimulation may be a real issue.

Thankfully, those of us who are not sensitive to flashing and bright lights dotting across the screen should be able to eventually get a handle on the game screen. It’s all a matter of training your eyes to ignore all the explosions, wall spotlights, and various other unnecessary screen clutter to hone in on what really matters - enemy bots, bullet barrages, and money. Of course, even if you can see clearly through to the core, there is still much room for error with certain bots darting across the screen rapidly.

Another hallmark of this developer is their skill with audio and that very much comes into play here. Each burst of fire and explosion sounds as good as it looks. Of course, the real star is the music which perfectly fits the modern-retro visual style. It’s electronic and strangely hypnotic after a while. Although not all the songs are incredible, at least a few are the type you’ll hear in your head after finishing a session.

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The majority of stages simply task players with decimating everything in their path. However, there are also two other stage types which crop up from time to time to keep you on your toes. In these stages players are tasked with either dodging (without shooting!) everything or destroying as many fast-moving enemies as possible. Depending on how well you perform, bonuses are accrued to help keep you well-stocked monetarily for the next stage. Interspersed between ten stages apiece, are four bosses. Unfortunately, most are not hugely difficult to beat with little strategy. It seems only the last boss really requires more than firepower.

That’s not to say the game is too simple. Those who choose to waste money on only one upgrade section may find that they are unprepared later. A focus on a few key areas may work best, although it takes at least a few games to realize the best loadouts for your playstyle. Such room for character customization helps balance the fact that Ultraton itself could be beaten by a skilled player in about an hour. As with arcade games from yesteryear, the real appeal is its addictive, repetitive nature rather than a long-winded narrative.

Enjoyment of Ultratron comes from having an affinity for arcade games upgraded to suit modern tastes. Some may be willing to pay $10 for this since they know they’ll get wrapped up in achieving higher scores every time. Or, others may find it a rip off for a very short required time investment. With that said, the game does improve upon the standard arcade formula so it definitely deserves a look. If you’re on the fence, grab the demo from Puppy Games’ site and go from there!

 

Pros:

+ Great deal of customization for upgrades
+ Attractive visuals and soundtrack
+ Fast, fun gameplay that’s simple to pick up

Cons:

- Not a ton of stages
- Bosses aren’t varied enough


 

Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Good


Ultratron improves upon the already addictive twin-stick shooter genre to please arcade game lovers.




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