If you’ve been holding your breath until the release of Ultracore, then let me give your loved ones my condolences. Ultracore was slated for release back in 1994 for the Sega Genisis, Amiga, and Sega CD platforms. It’s original developer, Digital Illusions, pulled the plug while the run & gun shooter was in its final stages. A quarter-century later, developer Strictly Limited Games swooped in and resurrected the game for a new generation. The two questions you are probably dying to know are A, did Ultracore deserve the miracle of resurrection? And B, how many Jesus/zombie references am I going to jam down your throat in his review? The answer to B should be obvious – as many as I can. As far as if Ultracore is worth your time and money, you’ll have to stick around until the end to find out.
As you can see from the pictures and video, Ultracore is a run and gun shooter that harkens back to the day of Metroid and Contra. In other words, everything a gamer wanted back in ’94. Digital Illusions did a great job of keeping that nineties feel. From that iconic side-scrolling action to the classic 90’s graphics, and the chiptune soundtrack. Hell, they even force you to punch in a code if you don’t want to start the game over after you extinguish each of your lives. That was the one bit of nostalgia I could have gone without, especially considering the codes are like 400 characters long.
But aside from that nitpick, running and gunning through the five stages of Ultracore, blasting robot after robot, collecting new weapons and key cards to access new (but similar) areas, was a fun and retro filled trip down memory lane. Each level had a similar look but was cleverly designed full of hidden rooms and tons of bad guys and level changes.
On the PS4, my preferred way to the play the game is using the right stick to aim and fire your weapon. I played the first level or so using the buttons to fire and the left stick to aim because that is how I assumed it would play based on years of playing the games from the era. That does work, but it left me very frustrated. Using the left stick to move and duck while using the right to fire and aim made the game much more fluid and fun to play. Ultracore doesn’t waste any time explaining this or much of anything about the game, and that’s okay because it’s basically a straightforward experience. I would have liked a little more explanation about the controls and the story, but both of those areas aren’t that deep.
Like the best games from the era, you’ll find some hidden areas throughout the five main levels, along with powerups and new more powerful weapons. It’s not all shooting here, however, as there is a fairly large emphasis on the platforming aspect of the game. I’m mostly talking about jumping from floating, moving, or disappearing platforms while trying to avoid enemy turrets and flying robots meant to blast you back to hell. The jumping always felt a little “floaty” to me, causing some frustration, and some cheap deaths, but the excellent run and gun feel made up for that.
Aside from the many different robot bad guys about, you’ll also have to deal with a few environmental hazards such as electrified floors. It’s all stuff we’ve seen a million times, but we haven’t really seen in a package quite like this since the 16-bit generation and Ultracore was a decent trip down memory lane.
Aside from the frustration of punching in a long code to keep your progress, Ultracore suffers from a slight lack of polish. A quick explanation of the controls, tighter platforming controls, and cleaning up some cheap deaths and damage from enemies dropping down from elevators above you without any warning, would have gone a long way. As it stands now, Ultracore is a really good retro shooter that does a lot right, mainly feeling like a game I would have played and loved back in ’94.
Ultracore PS4/PS Vita Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
After 25 plus long years, Ultracore has finally arrived on the PS4, Switch and Xbox. It isn’t perfect, but it is a tasty slice of 90’s nostalgia that is a great time if that is your thing. The music, the art, and the run and gun shooting are a treat that is somewhat let down by mediocre platforming and a spongy jump button.
- It’s full of 90’s goodness. Music and art style perfectly recreate the era
- Twin-stick run and gun feels great
- Fun and intricate level design
- Some lack of polish leads to early confusion about controls
- Platforming can be frustrating due to inconsistent and floaty jumping
- Keeping track of and inputting long codes to keep your progress is one bit of nostalgia best left in the past.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.