It's time to go back to the origins of twin stick shooters. From the makers of the Space Invaders inspired Titan Attacks! comes their take on Robotron: 2084. Does it hold up to the classic or is humanity doomed yet again?
Ultratron is played like you would expect but with a few twists. Obviously, the left stick moves your hero around and the right stick shoots, but you'll unlock many more complexities as you progress. Eventually, you'll acquire the ability to unleash smart bombs that take out all onscreen enemies, throw grenades, have coins magnetically attract to you, deploy turrets, and dash across the screen. Last but not least, you can purchase up to three pets that automatically assist you with their own unique weapons as you blast your enemies away. They can even take hits for you, although when they do you'll have to help them back on their feet and your score multiplier resets. As you can see, this is far more complicated than Robotron, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's better.
Graphically, Ultratron is quite stylish with dark backgrounds and overlaid laser-like foregrounds. This design is welcome at first, but when the action gets hectic it quickly devolves into a convoluted mess. In the later stages, it's difficult to make out the enemies since the levels are dark with glowing green areas which match your foes' shadowy figures and shining eyes. Therefore, they blend in way too well which results in many unfair deaths. That's not to say that it makes the game unplayable, it only means that you'll have to strenuously concentrate if you want to emerge unscathed. In other words, you won't be able to play this while taking advantage of your peripheral vision like you can in most old-school arcade games. One aspect that makes this even worse is the text that goes over the bottom left-hand portion of the screen. You don't even have time to read it because you have no choice but to stare at where the action is, so why is it even there? It just obscures part of the screen for no perceivable reason. The featured music matches the arcade feel very well with futuristic low-frequency vibes laced with electronic beats but the effects tend to be just as chaotic and muddled as the visuals. Overall, it looks and sounds stylish but it too frequently and unnecessarily boils down to a disorderly mess.
The gradually hectic levels are extremely rewarding to master, particularly the ending set where things get off-the-wall crazy. To help you deal with the insanity, you'll collect money and be able to purchase a large arsenal of unlockable moves, assistants, upgrades, and even replenish your health points and smart bomb stock. If you only pour your money into permanent unlockables then watching your firepower incrementally grow level after level is very satisfying. Some players won't be as lucky when they constantly run out of health and have to buy more, but that's where being a skilled player pays off. The only downside to progressing in the campaign is that everything remains the same. Sure, you get the odd challenge stage where you have to shoot all of the enemies before they go away or avoid all of the oncoming robots, but it simply isn't enough to diversify the gameplay. Also, the visuals remain mostly stagnant as well since the only noticeable difference is that the colours change. Ultratron may be fun, but it surely lacks in the variety department.
Ultratron only consists of one 40 level campaign with almost no other content. There are leaderboards, but that's about the only extra that you get. After you complete the main game, it loops and becomes more difficult. If you have a friend who digs games like this then they can join in on the action in cooperative multiplayer. This is a great addition as playing with a buddy will certainly add a layer of enjoyment to the overall experience. If you want to mix things up, you can toggle graphical effects that have the potential to make gameplay more authentic to the days of old as if you're playing on a cathode ray tube television complete with visual twitches and all.
For all the arcade junkies out there, Ultratron is a worthy download but don't expect it to be any better than the classic that it draws inspiration from. In the end, it doesn't really matter since the robots will take over whether you want them to or not.
- + Extremely hectic and enjoyable old-school twin stick shooting gameplay
- + Expansive and rewarding upgrade system
- + You can play cooperatively
- - Way too much onscreen chaos and ambiguity, especially in later levels
- - Only has one mode with 40 levels
- - Lack of visual and gameplay variety