Who among you are old enough to remember the arcade game Robotron 2084? Or Smash TV? Or any one of those old top down, dual-stick shooter games that spawned an entire genre. If you do, you’re going to have a massive dose of nostalgia in the form of Ultratron, from the same guys who brought you that other nostalgia-fest, Titan Attacks. Let’s get our guns loaded and our transistors blazing. Or was it the other way around?
Like the olde games of yore, Ultratron has little story to speak of, but it doesn’t really need one because the gameplay more than makes up for it. In the game, you control a shooty humanoid robot clearing wave after wave of devious foes in an attempt to avenge humankind. Because clearly the robots saw something in humanity that our protagonist didn’t, and obliterated the lot of us on the spot.
Aforementioned foes drop lots of filthy lucre for you to collect (it’s oh so filthy!), and at the end of each wave of foes, you’ve got the option to purchase upgrades for your battle bot, because upgrades are the 1-ups of modern gaming. There’s also a multiplier system at play, meaning that the better you play, the more money you can make in a shorter time. Naturally, you can’t buy everything, so you need to weigh up the way you want to play vs what you want to use. You can also buy extra lives, but this becomes an unnecessarily expensive exercise after one or two extras. You’re better off upgrading your weapons and so on, but as this is a review and not a how-to guide, you’re best off finding your own way through the shop. Many of the shop items also only unlock gradually through play, giving you some additional incentive to put the…pedal to the metal? Gun to the fun? Analog stick to the…maybe we shouldn’t be finishing that thought.
Where Ultratron got my attention was its homages to more than just the old twin-stick shooter games, but to retro games in general. There’s a delightful homage to Pac-Man in the form of pellets and fruit, for example. The graphics are a faux-8-bit style, complete with scanlines and faux-curved display. The colourful, brash game gets your attention quickly enough, and despite the action becoming ridiculously frenetic early on, it’s seldom the kind that makes you lose your character in the litter of explosive particles (I’m giving you the stink eye here, Geometry Wars).
Ultratron is brilliant, if mindless fun. People choking on the rope of nostalgia will definitely find this a great purchase, since the game comes with online leaderboard and even local co-op. With co-op, you get double the amount of robot for the same low price, and while you statistically only need to deal with half the bullets flying around, the reality is far less simple. Either way, it’s still a wonderful way to kill time by killing robots.
There are 40 or so levels of mayhem here, but you can burn through them in a relatively short time if you’re talented (or slightly longer with practise). Thankfully, when you finish a boss fight, you can restart your killing from the level following the boss, so you don’t need to retread the same old ground constantly, but obviously if you want the top spot on the leaderboard, you’re going to need to play the entire game in one sitting, and not get hit once. Good luck doing that because you’ll need it.
Final Score: 7.5 robot prawns out of 10
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Wii U (reviewed), PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Steam
Age Rating: Teen