The other day we reviewed Project Root and lambasted it for being a bare bones tedious shooter that doesn’t really set out to achieve anything, or succeed in any way as a result. To make our point even clearer, we received a review copy of Ultratron so we could see how a simple game can get things right. It really gets things right.
Full disclaimer: we really like Puppygames. From the stellar Titan Attacks (which we once won a competition in) and the infuriatingly addictive Revenge of the Titans and Droid Assault, everything they put out has a sense of cohesion. Whether it’s the neon purples and greens, the upgrade menu after each mission, or the deceptively polished and interesting 8-bit sounding noises that punctuate every action. If you’ve played and enjoyed a game by them before, you’re sure to love Ultratron.
A twin-stick shooter through and through, Ultratron is set up around a single mode (although co-op is available too) where you appear in an arena and kill all the enemies until they’re gone. You then spend money you’ve collected to buy upgrades, and rinse and repeat through 40 levels, with a boss every 10. There’s the odd bonus mission where you can rack up some more coins for upgrades and if you finish the whole game, you go through it again but it’s even harder to account for your upgrades. The very first time we played it, we finished all 40 missions and shot up to the top of the leaderboard (admittedly there were only 14 people on it at that point). We also had 51% of the achievements, and yet despite feeling like we’d accomplished everything it had to offer, we immediately loaded it up to have another go (after taking a screenshot to prove we’re the best). That’s how we know how good Ultratron is, that without the incentive of a higher place on the leaderboard or a new ending, we just wanted to carry on playing. It’s a rare thing in recent generations.
A lot of it is down to the careful balance of risk and reward that permeates every aspect of the game. When you’re fighting, destroyed enemies drop coins. You need to go hoover these up, but that often means going closer to the edge, where enemies might spawn and take away some of your precious shield. Of course even when you get that gold what do you spend it on? Expensive shield recharges or a more powerful weapon that will last forever? How about some adorable robot minions who will follow you around and shoot lasers and rockets and things? How about an upgrade to increase the range from which you can pick things up? It’s got that same agonising strategy of upgrades that made Rogue Legacy so addictive and while there’s a broad range of upgrades, it never feels insurmountable. If you wanted to do a playthrough where you max out the weapon, that’s not too difficult. Or how about filling your shields constantly but fighting with no upgrades whatsoever? Equally viable.
For £7.99 Ultratron is the finest slice of arcade-style action we’ve seen in a long time, and we heartily recommend it to you all.