How do you feel when the game you have been waiting for gets delayed? Well, imagine waiting for 26 years! Ultracore was supposed to be released in 1994 before being cancelled by its publisher Psygnosis. That is one hell of a wait but was it worth it? Is Ultracore everything its fans wanted? Let's jump in, shall we?
Firstly, I reviewed Ultracore on the PlayStation Vita, remember those? It took me ages to find mine, I gave both of my Vita's to my boys as my portable gaming has moved onto the Nintendo Switch these days. I eventually located one and blew the layers of dust off it. I miss my Vita, it was an under-supported portable powerhouse but that is a story for another day. Long live the Vita!
Ultracore is a game stuck in the era is was originally intended for but that is by no means a bad thing. It looks old, it feels old and it sounds old. I do not think there has ever been a game more fitting of the 'old-school' tagline than this one. It feels ripped from the 90s and I am kind of digging it.
The extreme old-schoolyness of Ultracore keeps slapping you in the face as you play. Continues, text codes to get back to levels, pixel-art, chip-tunes and everything about it just looks and sounds like my childhood. The game doesn't even fill the PlayStation Vita screen I was playing it on. It is played in a more classic 4:3 ratio and it fits the style and look of the game perfectly. Have I travelled back in time?
Anyone who has played any of the run and gun games of that era will know what to expect. It has that Contra style gameplay that fans of the genre will love. Run through tight meandering stages, shooting everything that moves and acquire new weapons, upgrades, opening doors and jumping across platforms. It's a no-nonsense, tried and tested gameplay loop we don't see much of these days. It is a welcome change of pace.
There are keys you have to find to open doors, there are moving platforms you have to overcome and certain tasks that have to be done in a certain order but apart from that it is all action. Move with your left stick and shoot with your right, its classic arcade gameplay and it was very refreshing to play amongst all the 'triple-A' outings I have played recently. No massive open world, no branching deep storyline, just shoot stuff in the face. Brilliant.
I do like Ultracore's controls. The twin-stick shooting is very accurate and intuitive, which I am sure was not present in 1994. You can also lock while shooting in a direction and strafe which is also a nice modern touch to a very classic feeling game. Along with that, you have jump, duck and an activate stuff button. It’s simple, easy and does not take a lot of work to get to grips with the controls.
That does not mean the game is easy though, at times there were rockets, bullets, enemies and projectiles coming from everywhere. I did feel some of the enemies were a bit 'samey' but that is how games were back then so I don't think you can hold that against Ultracore too much. If you are going to make a game like this, you should try to be as authentic as possible and boy is this game authentic.
Graphically I relished Ultracore. Everything from the grid-based UI, the classic looking health bar at the bottom of the screen to the enemies, the workable workstations you have to use and pixel-art continue screen, screams the 1990's and I adored it. A lot of people will be put off by how classic the game looks but I loved it. It reminded me of playing Megadrive with my bro in my younger years, good times, good times indeed.
The sounds of Ultracore were also right up my street. The crunchy chiptunes and the very basic sound effects all add up to that classic looking and feeling aesthetic I think the developers wanted. Ultracore looks and sounds great and I am so glad that the presentation was kept in line with its initial planned release.
I really enjoyed playing Ultracore on the PlayStation Vita, the controls were good, nothing was lost on the smaller screen and everything ran perfectly. It was also very convenient to play it on the go. If you are looking for an old-school run and gunner then this could be up your street. Just beware, it is really old-school and that may put some players off. Otherwise it’s a fun, short, blast from the past that I really appreciated.