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Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge (PC) artwork

Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge (PC) review

"Easy on the eyes, hard on the joystick. "

Serena's spaceship gets shot down as she enters enemy airspace. The enemy? A douchebag prince who trolled her on Spacebook. I couldn't make this up if I tried. Serena, presumably an interstellar champion for good, traveled through space to give an online troll his comeuppance. Was there no empire to tangle with? No planet-destroying weapon to tamper with? It must be peace time in the galaxy if cyber bullying is a call to arms. (To be fair, we don't know what he typed at her.)

With the ridiculous premise out of the way, we can’t ignore the two elephants in the room. They’re the first things you see, and they're barely contained by purple spandex. And they got me to thinking -- I get that using sex to sell games isn’t anything new (although perhaps doing so in a retro styled 2D platformer kind of is -- why this particular design? The buxom blonde with skin tight violet one-piece bodysuit with the thong back... it’s an interesting choice. Then I read up on the game and came to find out that the suit was copied wholesale along with a bunch of other design elements from Game Over II (aka Phantis) a 1987 PC title that ‘inspired’ the developer. Where do inspirations leave off and rip-offs take over? Who’s to say?

It'd be one thing if our heroine was the only element lifted from Phantis, but it's not. Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge is a slow paced run and gun game with awesome 16-bit-esque graphics, featuring large, colourful sprites and vibrant backdrops and some pretty fantastic tunes which hearken back to the best of the early 90s PC adventure scores. That much, the developers accomplished on their own. But the remarkable variety in levels for a game of this type might also serve to impress, and it bears mentioning that the level variety also comes straight from Phantis. Aside from the running and gunning, there's an actual space shoot-em-up level or two, as well a steed-riding stage for good measure. Unfortunately, the latter sequence only served to bring to mind for me a much better version of a such a stage, in Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, where Joe Musashi commandeered the hell out of his mount, leaping traps and slaying sprinting ninjas while in full gallop.

Anyway, quite a bit has been made of Ultionus's level of difficulty, insomuch as anything was made of a game this old and obscure, and it's certainly not easy, owing in large part to overly sluggish controls. No one will ever say that our main character is agile, or fleet of foot, or particularly adroit with her sidearm, because she's far from those things. When you press the shoot button to get her to let off a shot from her laser pistol, there is a small delay, which seems especially prominent when you attempt to shoot after landing a jump. Her jumping too, is floaty and not quite precise. The heroine's plodding movements and the reluctant inputs are really where the trouble starts.

The trouble continues with infinitely respawning enemies. Apparently, the aliens on this planet like to come back after each death... forever. None of them are particularly well designed from either an aesthetic or functional standpoint, but their constant flow will give you trouble unless you keep moving at all costs; taking damage in order to proceed to that next checkpoint is preferable to moving slowly in an effort to avoid it.

On easy mode, which I recommend, you are granted infinite lives. So you just keep on working at any given stretch until you figure it out. On the normal difficulty, you have just nine lives to make it through the campaign, which given how rough it can be getting from point A to B in this contest, makes the whole thing prohibitively challenging. There is a sort of subplot at play that features your alien companion, who you must find hidden away in each level and assist. Doing so consistently will unlock the true final level and the true ending thereafter. Hidden stores housing weapon upgrades can be similarly sought out. However, given the game's nature to punish those with an affinity for methodical play or those given to exploration, I found that taking calculated risks with speed foremost in mind to be the safest and most natural path to the waterfall, as it were; I beat the game with the basic loadout and without assisting my ally even once.

Speaking of loadout, I think again of our sexualized avatar. Aside from watching her chest heave as you move her about, there are some notable interludes, which show her piloting her ship, or else face down with her ass up in the air, thong bisecting her skyward cheeks as the Game Over screen does its best to remind us of something from a paused Pornhub clip. I would assume that this is probably the big draw of Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge. It must exist to satiate thirsty gamers in search of a sluggish but competent, very pretty and seriously rocking platformer tied with a neat, fan service bow. If that was its raison d'ętre, it's mission accomplished.

I enjoyed my short time with Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge; notwithstanding its difficulty, the unlimited lives will see you through to the end in under an hour. Just bear in mind that if you want to experience the true ending, you'll have to replay the game with exploration in mind and stumble through many, many deaths more than you did the first time 'round when you likely flew through by the skin of your teeth. The extra level and boss and bragging rights will not likely be sufficient incentive for you to suffer another, harder go at the game. Probably there should have been some middle ground between easy and normal, because easy means you're done in a couple of sittings, and normal means you're probably tearing your hair out. You'll either give up on normal or beat easy and never look back. I did the latter, though I wouldn't blame you if you didn't even get that far. You might just be here for the spandex.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (May 27, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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EmP posted May 27, 2018:

Marc Golding is on fire. He'll not quite take the front page, but he'll drown those who vie to stop him out via pure spite!

I made a joke not long ago that you can be fed retro platformers for days and you'll be content quietly working through, but I think what you do better than any of is is pull out examples not immediately obvious. Here, the Shinobi one makes perfect sense, but I'm not sure I'd have been able to think it up. Good review for a goofy little game none of us knew existed.
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Masters posted May 27, 2018:

Thanks, Gary. I would have had the front page were it not for that fucking Joe. Also, I was going to post this review last night and have all four up but I fell asleep. So I guess it's partly my fault too. Anyway, I want to spit out another two, perhaps today, perhaps not, so that my backlog is done. Completely.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 30, 2018:

C-C-Combo breaker!

But seriously, this is a great review. I'll probably sit this one out, unfortunately. I'm not opposed to sex appeal, but I tend to need more from my retro-inspired content.

"Where do inspirations leave off and rip-offs take over?"

I've wondered this since playing The Wonderful End of the World, because it's an obvious take on Katamari Damacy (it even subtly references the game in its Steam summary). At what point is it appropriate to scream "knock off"?
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Masters posted May 31, 2018:

Thanks, Joe, despite the combo breaker. ^_^

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