In a high contrast frenzy of lasers and electronic beats, an indie game that hearkens back to the days of old school top-down arcade shooters has blasted its way into 2013. Some of you may have been instantly reminded of Robotron 2084, which has unfortunately not made an official comeback for the past couple of video game generations. However, there is now a spiritual successor, ready to challenge gamers once again just as they did back in the day. For an example of a classic game rejuvenated and enhanced with contemporary flourishes, you don’t need to look any further than the game with a name so bad it’s amazing: Ultratron.
Arcades are undoubtedly less popular than they once were, and Ultratron comes across as a love letter to its origins in its simplicity, design, and challenge. The moment you select “Play” on the main menu, a message saying “PREPARE TO DIE” warmly welcomes you to the game. While you probably won’t be in any serious peril until the final quarter of the game, you can feel the pressures of a challenge ringing all throughout the game. So yeah, you should probably prepare to die.
There is actually some story premise to Ultratron, but it doesn’t play a large role in the game. Back in Robotron 2084, you were tasked with saving the last surviving family in wake of the robo-pocalypse in the year 2084. This time, however, the entire human race has been decimated and you are the last remaining humanoid battle droid tasked with one thing: REVENGE. It’s an interesting homage to the game’s inspiration and a fabulous little theme to carry the game.
Ultratron is a pretty simple game; you shoot the evil killer robots and win. It’s that simplicity that gives it a lot of its charm. Eventually the gameplay proves fairly daunting, but there are upgrades available that are vital to your survival. Every enemy you destroy leaves behind some sum of money to use towards upgrades, shields, or sidekick drones. If you think you’re going to be fully maxing out everything by the time the game is finished, you’re probably dead wrong. The difficulty curve in Ultratron is very comfortable, but clever, never really giving you as much money as you wish you could be receiving. Buying shields can cost you a lot of money that can be going towards a speed boost or drone instead. Even if you can afford it all, nothing is overpowered but it still helps in some way. You’ll either want to take all the help you can get, or you can just spend it all on shields and go balls-to-the-wall hardcore with no upgrades. Staying safe and managing your money becomes integral, heightening the tension throughout and between levels.
I often had trouble getting hit and having to spend all my money on shields. At first, I thought everything was too expensive, but then it could have been that I just suck. Amid the neon chaos, survival becomes trickier and trickier as you strive to manage everything happening on the screen at once, avoiding the barrage of bullets flying in every which direction and getting your revenge on those cold murdering bastards.
There is a strange sort of electronic realism that resonates throughout the game. The game not only plays like an old-school arcade shooter, but it also designed like one. The gameplay window actually resembles a brilliantly depicted cathode ray tube television screen. On-screen actions really pop when suddenly colors start splitting and the screen repeats and tweaks like a malfunctioning TV screen. Most of these effects make up for the lack of a spectacular level design. Ultratron does the borderline minimum, but it works perfectly fine.
Between the four quarters of the game, the environment does not change save for the color scheme, such as turning from purple neon lights to red to green. It may seem unsatisfying in today’s day and age of video games, but each section still feels different, which can mostly be attributed to the game’s soundtrack. Spectacular electronic tracks pump thrilling energy into this game, letting it still strive strongly by the time you reach the game’s final levels. This is the kind of game you’ll want to put on your fanciest headphones for, letting the bass and beats punch you in the face with awesome.
How Ultratron revels in the atmosphere of arcade’s heyday can also bring some of its weaknesses. There are many other games on the market for the same price of $9.99 that provide more content. Selecting “Play” through the main menu gives you everything the game has to offer in one sitting, although you can save your progress. To play through the entire game once will probably only take about half an hour to 45 minutes; there could have been much more brought to the table. At the minimum, to still keep things fresh and add more replayability, you would expect to see some challenge modes or in-game missions to muscle through, but Ultratron keeps its premise a little too simple sometimes. This game could have also benefited from more varied difficulties, although they aren’t really needed as the level of challenge is already very satisfying.
I should mention that I encountered a problem with my copy syncing to the Steam Cloud. From the first start-up, I would get a little error message, but I would just reboot the game again with no problem; the game would still save my progress and high scores perfectly fine. However, today when I booted it up, all of my data was wiped clean. That’s not fun. Because of that, I would recommend you purchase the game directly through the official site, where you have the ability to get both a direct copy and a Steam code. Perhaps my case was special, but hopefully this doesn’t occur for other people. You can probably take a chance and try it out. It might synchronize perfectly fine for you.
Overall, Ultratron is probably a must-buy for those fans of old-school arcade shooters and high-score junkies. Those looking for a sturdy package of content will probably be disappointed, but still have a ton of fun playing through the game. The creators at Puppy Games definitely kept in mind the heart of what makes a game a good time. There’s not a lot to Ultratron, but what it does, it does very right. Like the Robotron 2084 on steroids that it is, it stimulates and panders to the senses to give a cacophony of nostalgia and new-age wonder. If this is what the world looks like after the evil killer robot menace obliterates the human race, I am totally okay with my imminent demise.
[+Robotron is back] [+Simple arcade style gameplay is a blast] [+Fair and challenging difficulty] [+Plenty of upgrades] [+Clever and original CRT visual effects] [+Fantastic soundtrack] [+Addicting] [-Upgrades can be too expensive] [-Only one mode of play] [-Did not sync to my Steam Cloud properly]