By: Matthew Striplen
Humanity faces its greatest crisis yet: extinction, and you are the sole survivor of the robot wars. Can you outlast the onslaught of enemy robots and singlehandedly preserve the human race?
Ultratron comes to us by way of Puppy Games, a developer that specializes in 8-bit inspired titles. This latest installment bears a striking resemblance to one of their previous games, Titan Attacks. If you’re curious, you can read my review here.
The object of the game is simple: survive and score as many points as possible. Enemies come in many forms, but the most exciting part is the upgrading system.
While Titan Attacks had a moderate amount of specs to upgrade, Ultratron takes it to a whole new level, pun very much intended. Money can be spent on anything from shield upgrades and smart bombs, to drone AI and purchasing weaponized “pets.” This wealth of content enables gamers to customize your suit to match your unique play style.
The pets, Shooty, Laser, and Rocket, provide an additional layer of fun. Each one forms a radius around your character and engages in combat independently of your input, which provides indispensable support in hectic situations. Another upgrade allows them to level up depending on their performance, which boosts their attack power and AI. Pets can be damaged and separated from your character, forcing you to pick them back up, so be careful!
In terms of gameplay, Ultratron feels like the original Geometry Wars, but with tons of new twists. In fact, the similarities end after the basic concept but are nevertheless present. Your droid handles and shoots precisely, which mows down countless enemies in a flat, 2D environment.
Ultratron implements its difficulty curve with great success. The beginning stages introduce the player to the most important mechanics without overwhelming difficulty, and then it slowly introduces the upgrades. Since upgrades aren’t particularly cheap, you should be able to master any new abilities before adding something else. By the time you reach the later stages, the difficulty really ramps up, so gamers definitely won’t be bored.
Perhaps the greatest similarity between Ultratron and Titan Attacks is the visual style. Both employ the aforementioned 8-bit inspired graphics, but the atmosphere and character designs also stay directly in line. Each stage group has a slight variation on the regular scenery, though some of them make bullets and enemies more difficult to see. Is it intentional? We may never know for sure, but it definitely ups the challenge.
The game runs nearly flawlessly, the only problem being a brief hiccup in gameplay. This usually happens when something big explodes or when collecting a power-up, but not always. Although it can be a little jarring, the break is over so quickly that it doesn’t impact the overall experience too much.
After beating the regular stages, Ultratron brings players back to the beginning, but with boosted difficulty and tweaks the bosses. And by tweaking the bosses I mean sending two of them out simultaneously. Even though there’s technically no new content, the previous material is remixed in such a way that it continues to feel fresh. Plus, the extended gameplay provides added incentive to max out those upgrades.
Ultratron maintains the fine balance between simple gameplay and a multitude of options without becoming boring or confusing. The wide variety of enemies keeps the game from getting stale, and each upgrade drastically expands your powers. If you enjoy fast-paced arcade style shooters with a retro feel, Ultratron won’t disappoint.