Day 176: Ultratron

Posted: 2011/05/04 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #176, and today’s game is “Ultratron”.

[Please note that Ultratron is a multi-platform game, and the video above is not of the Xbox 360 version but looks nearly identical except for the aspect ratio of the screen.]

Ultratron has been on my list for a long time. This game came out in the XBL Community Games era, before the renaming to the Indie Games channel. I haven’t reviewed it yet in part because the channel has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dual-stick shooters and, though Ultratron is a high quality game, I like to space out games of similar genres as much as possible. Ultratron is more Robotron 2084 than it is Geometry Wars, giving it a somewhat different look and feel than most modern twin-stick shooters. However, it was a bit pricey at 400 Microsoft Points given the 80 MSP competition from the likes of “radiangames” and others (though I always hate saying that, because a quality 400 MSP indie game still looks damn good compared to most Xbox Live Arcade games that commonly cost 800 points or even more). Ultratron’s price drop today to 80 points, though, pushed it to the top of the queue.

First, from the developer (Pumpkin Games):

“Your mission is to avenge the human race, and destroy the four bots of the Apocalypse – Ieiunitas, Bellum, Lues and Letum!”

Ultratron doesn’t look bad, but its presentation is not quite up to the standards set by the “radiangames” titles. However, the gameplay is nicely polished. While some point to Berzerk as the birth of this genre, and that’s probably a fair comment, I look to Robotron 2084 as the game’s biggest influence. For those who don’t know, Robotron 2084 is an ’80s arcade game that was (to the best of my knowledge) the world’s first two-stick shooter. Ultratron not only maintains that control system, but also keeps the motif of a powerful robot fighting the good fight against robots run amok. From there, though, the two begin to diverge.

New to Ultratron over its inspiration are shields (replacing the one hit deaths I remember from Robotron, though in full disclosure I should mention that I played the Atari Lynx handheld version which was absolutely not arcade perfect, including a radically different control scheme). The shields keep the game feeling playable, no matter how full the screen fills with enemies. You can and still will die, but you’ll have more confidence in your ability to get as far, or farther, on the next play through, and pick-ups do allow you to replenish your shield. When the enemies do beat your shield down to nothing, which can often happen near the end of a hard fought level, it does ramp up the anxiety factor a notch and you grip your controller a bit more tightly.

Also new are power-ups, a rarity amongst ’80s arcade games and absent from Robotron, smart bombs, and boss fights. You have the ability to cycle through power-ups until you get the one you want, which is a nice touch, but be quick about it as you have to shoot them to do so which takes your guns off of the enemies, and forces you to stand around until the desired ability is showing. Power-ups include faster rates of fire, spreadfire patterns, a mini robot that fights along your side, and more. Smart bombs act as you’d expect, clearing the screen of enemies temporarily. The boss fights complement a much wider variety of enemy types than in Robotron, too, and I won’t describe them in detail here as discovering their unique abilities in the heat of battle is half the fun of the game.

Ultratron has a unique two-player mode where the shield is shared among the players, which goes a long way to fostering team play as any hit to the shield taken by your compatriot is another hit you can’t take. Add in a decent amount of power-up and enemy variety, and a motif that’s different than most twin-stick shooters in the indie games channel, and this is definitely worth picking up for 80 Microsoft Points.

Click here to download “Ultratron”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.



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Comments
  1. Hey, thanks for the review and glad you liked it.

    I’d been meaning to refresh the UI / profile handling and reduce the price for ages but other things got in the way.

    Regards,
    Paul

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul. How were the UI and the profile handling updated? I didn’t download it until the price drop so can’t compare the before and after.

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