Ultratron Review: Old-school Palate Cleanse


Sometimes, in the world of gaming, it can be hard to find a way to balance all of the games you’ve promised yourself you’d beat, but just can’t find the conviction. For many that I know, small, relatively mindless games, help cleanse the palate and allow for you to sort of set yourself on level ground as you switch from game to game. Ultratron, an “old-school arena style” bullet-hell shooter by Puppy Games, could very well be one of the better examples of a palate cleanser.

Originally released on Steam in 2013, Ultratron made its way to PS4, PS3 and PS Vita earlier this month. Going for about $10, (the price was a tad lower for PS+ members), the game’s sliver of backstory exists solely to give you a platform to stand on as you mow down hundreds of robots in the name of vengeance.

Essentially, you’re given this: robots are bad, they killed every human and your brain has been implanted in an upgradeable battle droid. Go nuts. Past that, you, and thanks to this newer version, a co-op partner can spend hours “pew pew pew-ing” to your hearts’ content, with the thumping of the retro bassline highlighting it all.

Welcome to the particle effect maelstrom that is: Ultratron.

Welcome to the particle effect maelstrom that is: Ultratron.

The control scheme is basic dual-stick shooter style, and the formula Puppy Games followed was really all you could ask out of the game. It functions nicely and everything is responsive.

However, there isn’t really a save feature, which can get a little frustrating as you can’t easily drop in or drop out of the game without losing some progress. What takes the save feature’s place is a checkpoint system which is rewarded to the player after every 10 levels and a boss fight. This can get extremely frustrating, however, when you either die 9 levels in or want to move on to something else.

Every time you destroy an enemy, they drop small orbs that can be collected on contact. The orbs represent a dollar value and are used to buy upgrades at the end of each level. The amount of upgrades is both proportionate to the content as well as reasonable in terms of attainability, but I found myself about 30+ levels into the game regretting my purchases prior, as I was underpowered and constantly failing.

The beefy upgrade screen, for all your "pew-pew" needs.

The beefy upgrade screen, for all your “pew-pew” needs.

Because you don’t really have a lives system, you instead have shields that offer the absorption of a single hit each, and small droids that assist you in battle that can take a hit or two for you as well. This also presents a problem, as (at least I found) you end up spending most of your earnings on shield recharges and don’t get to make any substantial upgrades to your robot.

Ultratron technically has seemingly limitless levels. After beating the first 40 and having the game tell me that I had avenged the human race, it just let me keep going. After doing some research, the levels just get incrementally more difficult and repeat on the basis of the first 40 levels, although they mesh the boss fights together to make up for the difficulty. This is really just padding though, and one of the main reasons that this game is excellent for prepping you between game excursions.

Overall, Ultratron is at least worth the money if used as a breather from your time with The Witcher 3. In regards to its own merit, it is a refreshing example of the bullet-hell genre and all the colorful, vibrant robot slaughter should not be overlooked.