Pull up a chair, my friend. I want to tell you about the trippiest, most bonkers video game experience I’ve had in recent memory. It’s called Ultros – an indie Metroidvania that feels like Journey meets Hotline Miami inside Salvador Dali’s head.
I know, I know, that sounds bizarre. But let me paint you a picture. Imagine waking up inside a giant, pulsating space station that looks like the inside of an alien’s womb. Seriously, they call this bad boy the “Sarcophagus” but we all know it’s basically an intergalactic uterus. Anyways, you take control of this bug-looking person in a sweet red coat to explore its psychedelic tunnels and chambers, which are just exploding with colors that’d make a neon sign blush.
It only gets weirder too. See, your goal is to escape by defeating these meditating overlords called Shamans. Do that and you reset the “life cycle” of this place, groundhog day style. Oh and there’s also a gardening system where you plant magical seeds that grow crazy plants to help you platform. Like I said – bonkers.
But underneath the kaleidoscopic visuals and sci-fi gobbledygook lies a rock solid Metroidvania foundation. You’ll jump, dash and slice through enemies to gain new movement gear. The combat can feel a bit floaty, I’ll admit, but once you get that dodge timing down, it starts to click.
What carries Ultros, though, is its loopy personality. It just oozes this infectious confidence to fully commit to its offbeat world. And that world is something special. With art from the Hotline Miami guy, every location pulses with radioactive hues and a real sense of place. One minute you’re trudging through blue caves, the next you emerge atop a shimmering orange forest. It’s a trip and a half.
So if you want a Metroidvania that feels refreshingly weird and isn’t afraid to be itself, Ultros should shoot right to the top of your list. Just be prepared to get lost in the cosmic uterus for a while. Things might get a little sticky in there.
Traversing the Trippy Terrain of the Cosmic Uterus
Let’s break down how you’ll be spending your time in the surreal sandbox of Ultros. At its glowing heart lies that tasty Metroidvania center – gaining abilities to access new areas to gain more abilities. But the cosmic uterus adds its own bent to the mix.
Instead of innate power-ups, your bug-looking hero relies on this wild floating gadget called the Extractor. It starts off just letting you double jump, but soon becomes your swiss army knife across Ultros’ tunnels and chambers. One upgrade drills through dirt piles to plant seeds. Another saws through alien brambles blocking your path. And then there are straight up flight thrusters to jet across large gaps. Each one opening up that map little by little.
But the Extractor does come with some strings attached – literally. See, it’s tethered to your back via this twisty umbilical cord. So while it grants you freedom to explore, you gotta be careful not to dash too far away from the thing. Nothing more embarrassing than hitting the end of your leash as you’re about to stick that perfect landing!
Of course, that glowing map won’t stay unlocked forever. Every so often, you’ll have to “reset the life cycle” – aka die and restart with squat. Almost everything is stripped away, plunging you back to the beginning of the game. Now I know what you’re thinking – sounds awful, right? But Ultros makes it work through slick roguelike elements. Any crucial upgrades you find can be permanently saved between loops. And shortcuts you unlock remain open, meaning you won’t retread too much old ground getting back on track.
One thing that does reset each time though is your horticultural garden. Yeah, on top of everything else Ultros throws gardening into the mix! Using seeds found throughout the world, you can cultivate plants that assist your platforming. Some grow bouncy fruits good for an extra lift. Others blossom vines or grass to swing from. Plotting the perfect garden takes experimentation, but reaping those sweet rewards always feels good.
Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When the colorful visuals fade, Ultros’ combat exposes some cracks. Dodging feels stiff, sword slashing lacks impact, and don’t even get me started on those finicky wall jumps. But thankfully the vibrant world always beckons, promising new fruits to harvest or Shamans to trounce. And the compulsion to uncover all its alien secrets keeps you pushing through the occasional clunky fight.
So if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty across multiple life cycles, Ultros should feed that Metroidvania craving – even if its roots spread in some peculiar directions. Just be sure to stop and smell the cosmic roses now and then!
A Kaleidoscopic Audiovisual Experience
I’m gonna be real with you – Ultros’ biggest strength is its presentation. One look at its kaleidoscopic visuals and your eyes will be doing backflips. This sucker is vivid as all get out. We’re talking blistering neons, oozing purples, rippling oranges – no color is left unused across its alien landscape. And props to El Huervo of Hotline Miami fame for crafting its trippy backdrops. His signature style is bleeding through every petri dish tree and crypto fungus.
But the art goes beyond surface level flash. Each new location has its own flavor – a distinct sense of place conveyed through shifting color schemes and architecture. One minute you’re treading through aqueous caves glinting aquamarine. The next, clambering up terraces blooming tangerine. There’s real cohesion to its surrealism. Even during those resets, retracing my steps remained engaging thanks to its vibrant level design.
Bringing it all to life are Ultros’ silky visual effects. Your caped bug-hero moves with a real weight, pulling off wall runs and air dashes that pop with finesse. Combat lacks some oomph, no doubt, but platforming controls sing – especially when you send that Extractor jetting about. Its fluid animations andcombat choreography make exploration a visual treat.
And backing these feverish visuals is a soundtrack overflowing with atmosphere. Every plink, drone and synth refrain seems precision crafted to match the emotional beat of whatever wild scene you’ve landed in. Tribal drums echo through forests with ritualistic energy. Sawing strings amp up the tension when enemies draw near. Even at its most low-key, the ambient tones and sound design envelope you fully into its alien landscape.
So if nothing else, strap in for one of the trippiest audio-visual rides a Metroidvania has offered. Ultros brandishes a knack for the sensory spectacle – filling your eyes and ears with plenty of candy even when some niggling issues try dimming the experience. Thankfully there’s more than enough neon fireworks on display to light your way.
Down the Rabbit Hole of Cosmic Nonsense
I’ll be real with ya – coherent storytelling isn’t exactly Ultros’ strong suit. You awake inside the fleshy tunnels of the Sarcophagus space station, and any shred of plot or purpose is mostly left for you to piece together. Ain’t no extended cutscenes or verbose NPCs holding your hand here. But for some folks, myself included, that ambiguous approach is kinda part of the fun.
The limited exposition you do get comes filtered through a barrage of sci-fi gobbledygook. And I mean that in the best possible way. Ultros speaks fluent technobabble – blinking computer terminals spout spiritual mumbo jumbo, mystics whisper metaphysical metaphors from the shadows. It’s a masterclass in saying a lot without really saying anything concrete at all.
But as the hours tick by, sporadic clues help fill in the fuzzier bits. Your goal slowly comes into focus: escape by awakening these meditating Shamans one-by-one across the Sarcophagus. Of course that process also resets the “life cycle” each time, plunging you back to square one after every breakthrough.
And it’s through this cyclical structure that Ultros’ high-minded yet ambiguous storytelling starts to take shape. Its themes of death and rebirth, decay and regrowth, feels intrinsically tied to that gameplay loop. With every reset the world slightly shifts, taking on new life just as you re-tread old steps. It’s some real circle of life business – albeit on some far out cosmic scale.
So while Ultros may not spin the most straightforward sci-fi space yarn, it certainly spins a memorable one. Its fragmented narrative and reality-bending weirdness might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can tune into its peculiar frequency, you’ll discover mysteries worth unraveling down its neon-stained rabbithole. Just don’t expect all the answers by the end. Ultros is a journey, not a destination, baby.
An Unforgettable Head Trip Worth Taking
When all is said and done, Ultros is one of the trippiest, most outright colorful video game experiences I’ve had in ages. Its neon-stained halls and bizarre cosmic gardening left my head spinning for days after. And while a few rough edges dull some of its shine, they hardly detract from what is otherwise a super memorable indie darling.
Because at its roots, Ultros nails all areas that count. Its vibrant art and audio first and foremost – crafting an alien landscape brimming with personality. But also in its poised platforming and expansive world ripe for exploration. Each new sector offering eye candy galore and hidden fruits to harvest. Ultros really captures that elusive Nintendo-style charm so many indie devs chase after but narrowly miss grasping.
Its more experimental traits certainly won’t vibe with everyone though. That sporadic plot and fragmented pacing asks much from the player – to buy into its rhythms and embrace the ambiguities. Getting tossed back to square one by the recurring time loops can sting too if you’re craving straightforward progression. But approach it with an open mind and Ultros rewards your patience tenfold.
Sure, some rough edges around combat and controls still poke out. And retreading steps across its (admittedly gorgeous) terrain grows tiresome late in the game. But nothing’s perfect. And the pacing problems that hinder its end never fully diminish that captivating world I gleefully lost myself in between crashes. I mean c’mon – no game with cosmic uterus gardening can be all bad, yeah?
So if you want a Metroidvania willing to shoot for the stars and embrace its own vibrant personality, join me for a trip down Ultros’ neon rabbit hole. Some occasional turbulence in gameplay can’t sink an experience this unforgettable. Just buckle up and brace for some weirdness – because things are gonna get real freaky in that fleshy sarcophagus! But for adventurous players willing to tune into its loopy frequency, a heady chaser awaits at the end this kaleidoscopic tunnel. Drink deep, don’t think too hard, and Ultros should leave your head buzzing.
Ultros' psychedelic style and expansive Metroidvania playground make it one of the trippiest adventures in recent years, even if its experimental nature won't vibe with everyone. For those willing to tune into its loopy frequency though, an unforgettable head-trip awaits.
- Vibrant and surreal visual presentation
- Smooth, enjoyable platforming
- Creative Metroidvania level design
- Catchy, atmospheric soundtrack
- Unique features like gardening system
- Minimal story lacks depth
- Combat can feel floaty
- Pacing issues towards the end
- Time loop may frustrate some