Tag Archives: bullet hell

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Ultratron

gd-ultratron-ps3-early-impressions

I’m trying to think of what the first “bullet hell” shooter was that I ever played or, at least, the first time I came to know the term. It might be U.N. Squadron. Or maybe 1943: The Battle of Midway. It was definitely something back on the SNES, because I remember cementing my dislike for the genre early in my gaming history. Though I’m sure some could argue that those titles don’t necessary meet the definition of a “bullet hell” shooter. Regardless, clearly from my examples there, it is a genre I don’t play often, and I could blame it on a strong lack of eye-hand coordination–which is also why I don’t play many fast-paced first-person shooters–but the truth is that I simply do not find this style of gameplay all that interesting.

Anyways, this post is about Ultratron, another “bullet hell”-esque shooter from Puppy Games, the same company that put out Titan Attacks!, which I previously played and uninstalled from my PlayStation 3. For lack of a better description, Ultratron is a twin-stick arena shooter inspired by classic arcade titles, updated and improved for the 21st century. The story is uninteresting and thus: the last human in the universe has been slain by evil killer robots. As the only remaining humanoid battle droid left, you’ll be fighting through over 40 arcade levels to take on the four giant boss robots of the apocalypse to…I don’t know. Get revenge? Make them go away and feel bad about their decisions? Grow as a metallic entity? Spoiler: I’ll never find out, as I only got slightly past Bellum, the second boss.

Ultratron‘s main goal is to obliterate wave after wave of incoming robot hordes. As you progress further, these tiny robots become tougher, rocking shields, explosive firepower, and other ways that they can damage you. However, as you destroy them, they burst into gold coins that you and your little pet droid can pick up, and there’s a shop-like screen at the end of each wave that lets you purchase new shields and smartbombs, along with special abilities and power-ups to increase your firing capability. They get tougher, you get stronger, rinse and repeat until your wiring no longer works. Also, there are a few challenge levels between waves, tasking you to dodge all enemies or, shockingly, shoot all enemies, with the money you earn at the end being determined by your performance.

Aside from this, there’s not much else seemingly to do in Ultratron. Which is a shame because it looks super slick. The game, without a doubt, takes its old-school style and runs for the hills with it; there are flashy gun effects, glossy animations, and a confined, stylized arena motif that truly makes you feel trapped and on your own to survive. That said, this ultra bright aesthetic often made it difficult for me to discern what was happening in the arena, with fruit trails blending into one another and swarms of teeny-tiny robots getting lost in the action. Also, text pops up in the bottom left of the screen, which is already condensed to begin with, in the middle of a dogfight, making it next to impossible to read while fighting off an enemy or dodging bullets.

Lastly, every time I typed the name Ultratron for this farewell post, all I can think of is the theme song to Ultraman. Enjoy.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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Ascend the tower of guns with the power of guns

tower of guns early impressions

I do not believe I’m passionate enough about Tower of Guns just yet to confirm whether or not I already have a copy on Steam thanks to some bundle or giveaway, but it matters not for PlayStation Plus subscribers get it for free this month. On both PS3 and PS4, I believe. Incidentally, I keep mistyping it as Tower of Funs more times than I’d like to admit. In between prepping for East Coast Comic Con this weekend, I’ve run the tower a handful of times, improving with each go.

What is Tower of Guns, you ask? And you don’t mean metaphorically? Well, it is a single-player first-person shooter with rogue-like elements developed by Terrible Posture Games. Yeah, that’s a mouthful. Let me see if I can come up with something better. It’s a bit like Borderlands meets The Binding of Isaac, with each enemy-filled room randomly generated and a par time set for the entire level. You can perform specific tasks while you play to unlock new perks or guns, as well as collect experience point orbs to level up your currently equipped weapon. Oh, and it’s also quite a lot of fun, more than I expected when dipping my hairy toe in.

Strangely, there’s a story, but one could completely ignore it or even turn it off in the options, which I’ve not actually done yet. It’s pretty easy to not pay attention to. It’s also immensely difficult to pay attention to at other times. Basically, as you move from room to room, some dialogue boxes will appear on the screen, but nothing anyone says seems to be important, and some of it comes across as randomized. The fourth wall will break, with you occasionally addressed as gamer, which I was not a fan of, as that word continues to sour in my mind thanks to the atrocities of GamerGate supporters. Your goal is to get as far as you can, ideally to the end, the tippy top, in a single run. You will first have to survive a number of standard enemy-filled rooms and then battle a boss before moving on to the next tier of the tower.

Tower of Guns is both a fast and short game, with the strategy for just about every enemy you encounter being shooting while strafing. A few bosses will require some extra planning, especially the finaler boss, who I could not take down on my first try. The difficulty, which can be raised or lowered via pick-ups and perks, really stems more from the level design. Some rooms are shockingly dull–imagine just four walls, maybe a staircase, and little to no decorations–while other rooms have teleporting pads and high platforms to maneuver around, plus a bunch of flying tanks and turrets shooting at you non-stop. You never know what you’re going to get once you shoot a door to open it Metroid-style.

Now, I’ve run into two walls so far. Not literally, though there are plenty of walls in this game. First, the game froze on a loading screen, though I think it might’ve been more my cat Timmy’s fault, since he knocked the controller out of my hand as Tower of Guns was loading the next area, forcing it to lock up. This was extremely unfortunate as I was on my ninth run and doing really well in terms of health and progress and taking down bosses–and all that was nonexistent when I loaded the game back up. Secondly, for a bullet hell-themed game, some of the rooms where the bullets are plentiful and hellish cause the frame rate to drop immensely, stuttering away at an unplayable clip. You’d think with the less-than-taxing art style and new hardware that this sort of issue wouldn’t ever pop up, but it does.

I’m definitely going to keep at Tower of Guns until I unlock the majority of the guns and perks, but unlike other rogue-likes, such as Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac, this one doesn’t feel like it’s going to last forever. Eventually the repetition will outweigh the randomness, and the tower will crumble, but not before I’ve wrung every bit of fun from it. Until then, may you always start each run with the ability to triple jump.