Ultros: A Psychedelic Visual Feast in Metroidvania Gaming
One of the most challenging ways to make your game stand out, especially in a consistently packed genre, is through its visuals. Unlike gameplay mechanics or story beats that can be hidden within the experience’s DNA, a title’s presentation is the first facet you perceive. Therefore, when a game attempts to be bold and ambitious by distinguishing itself through its visual style, it can be a double-edged sword.
No upcoming title quite embodies that notion like Ultros, the psychedelic metroidvania developed by El Huervo. The vibrant and striking color palette has lingered in my mind since its initial unveiling, accomplishing its promotional goal in that sense. However, I couldn’t decisively determine if I was a fan of it at all. With that in mind, I decided to delve deeper into the particulars by playing an early build and experiencing the gameplay within this cosmic setting firsthand.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Close-range combat encounters are enhanced by fluid movement, ensuring that no battle overstays its welcome.[/perfectpullquote]
In Ultros, players follow a character who awakens in The Sarcophagus, a place where they presumably crash-landed and are now trapped in a loop within a black hole. This eerie location, often referred to as a cosmic uterus, serves as the dwelling of a demonic entity known as Ultros. Naturally, your objective is to uncover the mysteries of this place and perhaps find a way to escape the never-ending loop, which leads to exploration of The Sarcophagus and interactions with various strange NPCs scattered throughout the otherworldly neon landscape.
Exploring the Fluid Combat Mechanics of Ultros
From the limited time I spent playing, primarily focusing on gameplay, Ultros left a swift and lasting impression. Close-range combat encounters are enhanced by fluid movement, ensuring that no battle overstays its welcome. The enemies appear to have reliable telegraphed attacks, and a reasonably quick reaction speed is required to prevail since there is minimal delay when executing standard strikes.
On the other hand, charged attacks are used to break shields on specific foes, requiring a noticeable amount of time to execute. Balancing the use of these two contrasting methods of attack becomes a central focus within the opening hour. What’s even more intriguing is the inclusion of juggling, allowing you to send enemies flying in your preferred direction. These collisions with the environment and other nearby enemies add an extra layer of depth to combat that I hope continues to be cleverly integrated in later areas.
Innovative Combat and Environmental Interactions in Ultros
The audio design also deserves praise, featuring visceral, gooey sound effects that accompany your attacks. Although I wish the attacks themselves provided a more tactile impact, the sounds alone give each brief victory a satisfying punch. Additionally, there’s a counter mechanic that allows you to slide under foes and retaliate with satisfying timing.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]What’s even more intriguing is the inclusion of juggling, allowing you to send enemies flying in your preferred direction.[/perfectpullquote]
If it wasn’t already evident, Ultros‘ combat stands out the most, but this isn’t to say that the other elements are lacking. Exploration, at least in the early stages, seems solid, with a functional map and straightforward navigational puzzles that add a touch of memorability to each area. Moreover, there’s a skill tree-like feature in a menu known as the Cortex, which relies on consuming the body parts of defeated enemies to unlock new abilities. These elements are relatively self-explanatory, offering immediate familiarity to genre fans, while the visual distinction of the UI and areas is what provides characteristic uniqueness.
However, as much as Ultrosembraces the eccentricity of its presentation, I hope there are enough variations in general color schemes among different areas to prevent maps from blending together too frequently. Additionally, as a more personal quibble, the font used in dialogues can be somewhat overwhelming in its peculiarity. At times, it can be a bit challenging to read what characters are saying, with the visuals occasionally overshadowing the gameplay experience, albeit to a minor extent. The font used in menus and such was much more accessible.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The audio design also deserves praise, featuring visceral, gooey sound effects that accompany your attacks.[/perfectpullquote]
First Impressions: The Captivating Gameplay of Ultros
In the few hours I’ve played, Ultros has already captivated me. While I have limited information to assess or conclude regarding the narrative or level design, as these aspects require more time to fully grasp, they effectively set a tone. However, the combat has truly won me over. The fluidity of your attacks and straightforward movement make Ultros an intriguing action metroidvania worth keeping an eye on ahead of its release on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam on February 13, 2024.
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