Let’s start this review out by just saying it at point-blank: this game is awesome. Despite not having an overabundance of experience with bullet-hell shooters, the game managed to sweep me up into the genre like few others have. The incredibly simple controls and abundance of options helped to eliminate the growing pains I expected considering the occasionally brutal difficulty. Unfortunately, one single issue brings down the title considerably. Fortunately, Ultatron’s strengths manage to shine through despite it. And no, the problem isn’t an admittedly disappointing lack of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The gameplay is simple. You are a robot-thing who moves around with the left stick, and with the right stick can aim and shoot its gun. That is mainly it; you also can use smart bombs to eliminate the screen of enemies by pressing Zl/Zr/R. It’s an extremely simple set of controls, and thank goodness, because the gameplay would not allow for any more complex input.
Ultatron is not a very unique game; it is incredibly straightforward. Enemies will appear on the screen, some mindless drones that inch towards you, others that circle the outside shooting back intermittently, while still others are more powerful, more agile, and can take more damage. And that’s… more or less it. You just shoot at enemies and avoid them and their fire until you finish the level. Though sometimes there are upgrades that you can shoot and capture, and sometimes there are pieces of fruit to catch which give you extra points.
In between levels you get to upgrade your character. Enemies drop money when they die, and this can be spent on a variety of things. You can buy smart bombs for tough situations, pets to help you shoot enemies down, greater firepower, and much more. This money is also used to keep your shield in check, so the more you have to spend your hard earned cash on keeping your defenses up, the less you can get advantages in other areas; in other words, getting hit less means you can get more upgrades.
The game is split up into four sets of ten levels; each set ends in a checkpoint, so the goal is to get through all ten levels without a game over in the best shape possible, as the game saves your status at the end of the previous ten levels every time you have to start over on the next set. Every fifth level is an assault level – incredibly hard levels that I die on constantly that are just an onslaught of constantly attacking enemies as opposed to the more intermittently calm regular levels. Every tenth level is a boss, which are some of the easiest parts of the game, but they are still definitely fun to fight nonetheless.
There are also some bonus levels, some where you must shoot everything before they fly past and others where you must dodge everything. Completing these perfectly gets you extra money; if you miss even just one, you just get extra points. Speaking of points, there are leaderboards, for those who like that sort of thing.
Visually, the game is gorgeous. It’s standard pixel art, but the colors are bright, distinct, dazzling, and just look so dang good. It’s generally easy to see what everything is on the screen, which is important because things get insanely fast. Unfortunately, there are just too many effects for the game’s own good, and it can make things hard to keep track of. Sometimes the screen sort of ripples at a certain area, or there are explosions or whatever, and it’s sometimes impossible to understand what is happening. There were many periods where I would suddenly find myself thinking I got hit, but then didn’t; and periods where I thought I got out fine, then looked at my shield number in the corner and realize I had gotten hit twice.
It’s just too hard to keep track when things get hectic, and while it cost me much only sparingly, it can get frustrating. Ultimately, that’s the biggest failing of Ultatron: the overabundance of effects just get in the way. While this makes for a gorgeous game, it just distracts too much from the otherwise flawless gameplay. The game also has a pretty cool soundtrack, with some very solid chiptunes fitting right in with the fast paced and vibrant style. It’s nothing too memorable, but it definitely adds to the experience.
All in all, Ultatron is definitely worth looking at. Those who want a top down bullet-hell shooter with some gorgeous retro graphics, perfect controls, lots of options and upgrades, fun tracks, and impressive difficulty will find that all here in spades. Just don’t expect any innovation, and keep in mind that some effects can be distracting or confusing at times, and you will get a fantastic experience. It’s just too bad something so unnecessary takes away so much.