February 26, 2024

Ultros review: “A breathtaking, beautiful main trip of a Metroidvania game set in a cosmic womb sarcophagus”

I’m a few hours into Ultros and I’m facing my biggest challenge yet. This won’t be easy, but let me do it attempt to illustrate the scene. I’m stuck somewhere in the bowels of the colorful labyrinthine sprawl of the Metroidvania, a setting called The Sarcophagus that’s described as a “cosmic womb holding an ancient, demonic creature.” I’m staring at a colossal beast – a bruised and battered, oversized fly equipped with impenetrable armor and ripping stalactites from the roof to use as projectile weapons. Its perforated wings, glowing bright neon green, struggle to lift its body off the ground; and its eyes, beady and fiery orange, shoot devastating purple laser balls that chase me across the battle arena.


Date of publication: February 13, 2024
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4
Developer: Hadoque
Publisher: Kepler interactive

In comparison, I use the floating ‘Extractor’ attached to my cherry red duster like a pet on a leash to trigger a genre double jump. I hoist myself onto the boss’s back, press the attack button, and deplete the insect’s health by slashing at the pink power source attached to its spine. As I fill protagonist Ouji’s high-top sneakers, I think I might be an insect myself—I have elongated facial features hidden in a green mask with the antenna sticking out—and to restore vitality, I chew on things like Pompom Larvae, a resource harvested from enemies felled elsewhere in the wild. Sound weird? Of course it does. But stranger still, even in the grip of such unhinged and inexplicable chaos, Ultros always is: in one way or anothersuper chill.

Comes in warm

(Image credit: Kepler)

Ultros is such an atmosphere. If you can take one thing away from this review, let it be that. I can’t remember the last time I played a game that so perfectly understands what it is, while at the same time seeming like it doesn’t matter how it’s perceived. Hotline Miami is a classic that comes to mind in this context, and not just because Ultros’ striking visuals are the work of Niklas Åkerblad, aka El Huervo, who created the cover art for Dennaton’s brutal top-down shooter series. Ultros and Hotline couldn’t be more different genre-wise and conceptually, but they both show an unwavering commitment to their core gameplay loops from start to finish; they drop players into their world with predetermined rules, give them the tools to succeed, and then step back and watch everything unfold.

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