Ultionus is a throwback platformer/shooter. A throwback to where? To this Amstrad game called Phantis. After a few play-throughs of this game I checked out some Phantis vids. The protag is wearing a space bikini, there's an alien planet, a couple 2D shooter stages, and dinosaur rides. Wow it's like I'm playing a next-gen sequel!...Well if next-gen was DOS.
That's mostly what this game reminds me of. Those good old days of shareware, dozens of action-platformers, and command prompts. For the most part this game is pretty decent. It's rough at first, since the heroine has a pitiful gun and a measly three hit-points. Checkpoints are fairly frequent but the bosses are pretty brutal(pattern memorization is a must). Most of the time the trick to getting around is to simply jump a lot and fire downwards. It's a higher rate of fire, and should keep the screen fairly clear. The game can get overwhelming though, since regular enemies adhere to the Ninja Gaiden school of design. They respawn constantly and whenever you move so much as an inch off-screen. It's frustrating but hey, that's how it goes sometimes.
Ultionus strikes an odd balance between old-school hardcore and what we take for granted today. There are unlimited continues, saves, and extra-lives are fairly frequent. Everything else though is a lesson in pain. The hit-box is large, so Serena takes damage whether it's a projectile to the gut or an alien that just grazes the soles of her boots. Enemies also love to hang out on cliffs or appear just when you're trying to make a jump. There are ways to make the game easier on yourself, but they're not terribly obvious. In fact in your first play-through you just might miss them entirely. Four of the seven stages offer hidden armor or weapon upgrades. Once you grab the rapid-fire you're pretty well set, though armor upgrades mean more damage can be taken(plus it's fashionable!). If you manage to beat this game without any upgrades, subsequent play-throughs are gonna be easy peasy fo' scheezy.
Less forgiving is that the Serena's ship is subject to inertia. Maybe that was a thing in older PC shmups but uhhhhh ehhhh ummm NO. Yeah sorry but when I stop moving my ship I want my ship to stop moving...INSTANTLY. The true final boss throws some bullets around and it makes those tight squeezes a bit too finicky. I'll throw this under nitpicking because I tend to get a little ornery about 2D shooters.
Oh and this game is short. Average play-through is about 30 minutes, 35 if you go for the good ending. That's in-line with Ultionus' inspiration, but it might not be enough for gamers today. I guess another one or two stages would have been nice. Perhaps these stages wouldn't be themed like the rest of the game. By that I mean Serena jumps and shoots through all too common environs. There's the Ice stage, fire stage, jungle stage, elevator stage, and you get the idea. On the other hand that extra stage could very well have turned out to be an underwater one, and that's just no bueno.
Ultionus does exactly what it was programmed to be; a pleasantly difficult retro-shooter-platformer. Yeah it's got issues but I dunno, I kinda like that it does. It makes for a more "authentic" experience. I've already got a billion games where the hit-boxes are perfect, the ships control flawlessly, and enemies stay dead for more than two seconds anyway. I can live on the wild side every now and then.
Once again, if you're the kinda person that buys a lot of indie bundles, you might already own this game. Give it a run-through.
Music is awesome btw.
(That's no surprise)