Puppy Games once again nails it in an adrenaline-pumped shooter; their newest game Ultratron taking the Titan Attacks! concept and turning it on its head. Puppy Games carried over the same goals and rewards, but unfortunately some of the charm was lost when transforming it from a side-scrolling Space Invaders-esque shoot-em-up to a 3D twin-stick shooter.
The basic concept of play is exactly the same in Ultratron as it was in Titan Attacks! – destroy everything on your screen. This added a nice sense of familiarity when playing Ultratron for the first time, as I was immediately understood what the game was trying to do.
You’re no longer held back by one plane and most of the screen is now your shooting ground – just as long as you don’t run into any enemy shooters. Even though most of the screen is yours however, I still felt restricted by the dozens of enemies that will tend to appear at once. It would have been nice to move anywhere and drag the screen with me, more space to avoid fire, and a new layer of depth to Ultratron‘s difficulty by making enemies appear of nowhere. The game being harder that way would have been more entertaining than just dealing with what’s just in your limited amount of space.
What makes Titan Attacks! hard is how small your window to hit an enemy was. Both of you could only move side-to-side, and as the enemy ship slowly moved down the screen to destroy you, your window to attack got increasingly smaller. But in Ultratron, all I did was avoid the bullet hell that came in the last two stages. In fact, you won’t have much trouble with the game during the first three stages. The fourth, and final stage, Letum, is where the head and heartaches will commence – stage one and two are a joke comparatively.
Power ups are financed by collecting the money earned from killing pests, or enemies – but just like the gameplay, this part has a twist, too; you’ll only get the money if you pick up the pellets dropped by the baddies. So, hypothetically, you could get an entire level without earning any money… and sometimes, it feels like you don’t.
Rewards are expensive, and there are way too many. There are 20 in total, including Shields, Pets and EMP Shocks. Most of the upgrades in Ultratron can be upgraded multiple times, resulting in a whopping 60+ upgrades in total – and a lot of these require thousands of dollars to obtain. That said, you won’t end up touching half of these upgrades until the very end because most of the money that you do earn you will probably spend on Shields – and these can get very pricey. It also felt like the upgrades that I did buy had little-to-no effect and I barely felt a difference between having a Rocket Pet equipped and not having one. The price of these upgrades made the money that the enemies drop feel insignificant, and there didn’t seem to be enough distributed to cover the cost of these expensive items.
The way you’re fed information from the game is very strange and completely counter-intuitive. Text pops up on the bottom left of the screen in the middle of a dogfight, and when you try to read it you end up getting hit or you run into an enemy. At the same time however, when I ignored it I felt as if I was playing the game wrong because I wasn’t getting all the information the game wanted me to have. It’s not a huge deal after playing it for several hours as you’ll come to learn from experience, but it was very frustrating in the moment.
What isn’t frustrating are Ultratron’s sounds and visuals. The soundtrack is great, with every beat matching the fast-paced, on-your-toes gameplay that will pump you with energy as the levels get harder. I mean, you do play as a robot – so a robotic soundtrack couldn’t be more fitting, right? Most of the game is dark with a single color highlighting the fact that you’re on a different stage; but even though it’s very simple, that is exactly what gives these games their charm.
Ultratron may only take you a few hours to complete, depending on how much you struggle in the last stage. There isn’t much to do after aside from fully upgrading your character and unlocking every pet, and that’s part of why I can’t look back upon Ultraton very fondly. It did its job to entertain me, but it didn’t keep me sucked in long enough for me to have a memorable experience with it.
Puppy Games’ Ultratron is well worth the short time you’ll spend with it, it’s just a shame that it really didn’t do anything to make it standout from the rest of the shoot-em-up crowd. All I can see it as is the inferior version of Titan Attacks!, though hopefully you’ll be able to see it for what it’s trying to be.