Ultracore (Switch, PS4, Vita)

If Ultracore feels like a long lost 16-bit Genesis title, that’s because it kind of is!  There’s a bit of interesting history behind it.  Originally, it was called “Hardcore” and set to release on the SEGA Genesis and Amiga in 1995.  It was developed by a company called Digital Illusions, also known as DICE, and the game was pretty much completed.  Unfortunately, at this time the PlayStation just came out and everyone was interested in 3-D gaming, so this one got lost in the shuffle.  A short time later DICE went under and the game was all but lost.  But recently it was found again and Strictly Limited finished it up and made it available to download under the name “Ultracore” for Switch, PS4, and even the Vita (reviewed on Switch here).  It’s a run and gun game with bits of exploration mixed in as well.

I imagine if this game were released back then, it would’ve had an expansive story in the instruction booklet, but from what I can tell you’re a lone soldier infiltrating an enemy fortress.  You can run, jump, and fire your weapons.  Controls are a little different when you shoot.  You can fire in multiple directions, but as you are firing you don’t move.  But you can back up and move forward sometimes.  To move again, just stop firing.  It takes a little getting used to but otherwise controls are fine.

Even though the game is set up in stages with a robot boss to fight in each one, you’ll explore underground mazes and the stage progression is pretty seamless.  You’ll sometimes come across hidden corridors with goodies and weapons in each one, and can pick up ID cards and switches to open doors and such.  Every so often you’ll come across a computer where you can view a map of the surrounding area.  You can switch weapons like a laser pistol or missile launcher, but aside from your default weapon, the others have limited ammo.  Graphics are pretty impressive with lots of stuff going on at once for a 16-bit title.

Aside from the controls that take some getting used to, there are some other problems with the game as well.  Even though you can take multiple hits and get plenty of lives and can start right where you left off, you only get a limited number of continues so the game can be pretty hard to beat unless you’re really good at these kinds of games.  The mazes also have a knack for sending you plummeting into insta-death spikes and pits with no time to react or know they’re there.

Other problems have to do with the era in which this game was released.  You can continue on later stages via a password system, which was acceptable back then but I think they could’ve put in battery saves now.  Also since games back then relied more on instruction booklets to help you figure out the game, this one has no tutorial mode so you have to figure out a lot of it on your own.  Which isn’t too hard to do, but in-game instructions would’ve been helpful.  But if you like playing long lost 16-bit titles, you may want to check this one out.  It certainly would’ve been one I would have at least rented back in the day.

Kid Factor:

Ultracore is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood.  You shoot all manner of robots with futuristic weapons, and some of the still shots show wounded soldiers laying in pools of 16-bit blood.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may find it too difficult.

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