Monday, June 15, 2015

Robotron Remembrances: Ultratron Review

Time to Kick Some Can!

Are you still human?  Are you merely a machine with a bit of human brain attached?  What are the ramifications and overarching significance of your existence?  Such existential questions don't matter.  What does matter?  Taking revenge for the human race!

In Ultratron by Puppy Games you control an assault robot that could give the Terminator a run for its money as it fires an endless barrage of laser blasts at a seemingly unending supply of robots programmed to destroy you.  But that's just fine by you, bring'em on, because your trying to bring to them what they brought to humanity--total annihilation.


Single screen rapid fire action abounds here with enemies spawning on screen almost as fast as you destroy them.  The dual stick controls (used on Wii U) owe much (okay all) of what works well for them to their spiritual successors, Robotron: 2084 and Smash TV.  Every movement on screen has a fluidity that gives you the control you need and desire when a game has this much action going on.  The integration of a screen clearing bomb drop via side button does feel clunky, nor does it slow you down to reach it.  Nor will you find yourself accidentally using it via-itchy trigger finger, as can too often be the case with a Shoot'em Up.

Graphics and Style:

All eyes (and weapon fire) are on you and you alone...

If you go back to Robotron: 2084, those weren't exactly tame colors flashing on the screen.  Those were epilepsy inducers, and that's just fine by me!  What's gaming without a bit of adventure?  Could this game send me to the hospital?  GREAT!  When does the sequel come out?  Ultratron's neon blues, purples, reds, and yellows evoke not only Robotron, but just plain ol' Tron as well, and that's just dandy.  There's so much going screen from text scrolling at the bottom to enemies materializing everywhere, to gun fire and bombs--it can seem overwhelming, but unlike other games in this genre, I don't lose track of what projectiles are coming my way thanks to having to squint at the screen.  If I lose track of them because there's so many of them...well, that's another matter entirely, but at least I don't feel cheated out of my life by glowing neon.

The graphical style tries in places to look a little bit like a throwback to previous gaming eras, but not to the point you would ever mistake this as something pretending to have a "retro" look.  Your 'bot may look squarish, but you would never place him any where but modern times.  It doesn't seem like a hedged bet like the guys at Puppy Games couldn't decide between making it look old school or not, but rather a lovely fusion of styles both old and new.

Music and Sound:

Like an old friend, the heavy thumping bass has returned.  Along with it, that music genre known as techno.  But really, what else would you have with a dual-stick, rapid-fire, Shoot'em up?  Not that I'm trying to make excuses here.  Sometimes I think that the use of techno just becomes a fall back for neon colored shooters.  In some cases it feels like the easy way out.  Here, the genre fits, the tunes increase in speed and style with each area, and the music helps keep you in the action without getting annoyed.  If you can find it to download, I would recommend the soundtrack as good exercise or even writing music.

As far as sound goes, the sound of your gun firing, the bleeps and bloops of the enemy, and even the occasional synthesized robotic voice declaring all humans must die add both atmosphere and personality to the game.  The shooting sound has an almost retro-like reverb quality to it, but it suits the game well and just makes it a real joy to fire the weapon.  And since enemies generally fill every spare corner of the screen, there's never a reason not to be firing away and hearing those awesome sounds.


Ultratron, much like Robotron demands you rapidly blast enemies that come at you from all angles throughout the course of a round.  In between stages you can buy power ups for your bot, such as shields or weapon boosts, or little helper bots using the money you pick up from defeating enemies.  You play ten rounds per stage, and at the end of those rounds you face off against that levels boss.  If you defeat the boss, you can continue the game from the start of the next stage.  However, if you die along the way or die at the end boss, you have to start the entire stage over again.  While this might seem ripe for some good ol' controller-flinging anger, thanks to the rapid pace of the gameplay though you'll want to dive right back in and try again once you die.

Game Features of Note:

Sometimes I get really annoyed when a game tries to burn out my retinas with bright neon.  Guess I'm a bit of a grump that way.  I feel like some Shoot 'em ups (Never shmups, never NEVER Shmup!) try to compensate sometimes for what they lack in style with eye-searing pain.  Ultratron has a nifty game setting feature that helps you turn down that brightness and allows you to play the game without the loss of those eyeball thingies you need to play.  Thanks Puppy Games!  I owe you one!

Final Analysis:

Imported from the UK, you can't help but feel the development team really knocks it out of the park in imitating the style of an old school Atari game.  Ultratron has, until recently, only seen availability as a download from the developers site or via Steam.  Not that this presents a problem really, just if you download this for the Wii U, and you should by the way, it will be hard to imagine playing it any other way than with the dual analog sticks of the Wii U game pad.  This shoot 'em up has definitely made it's way into my regular cycle of games, and it should for you too.

Graphics/Visual Style:  10/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Control: 10/10

Overall Rating:  10/10

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