All the way back in 1994, Digital Illusions developed a game called Hardcore. Unfortunately, the game was canceled a brief moment before it was supposed to be finished and released. The reason: the first PlayStation was about the be released and the publisher thought that the sales would go down and it wouldn’t be worth it anymore. But luckily for us, publisher Strictly Limited Games picked the game up in 2018, finished the development, and this summer Ultracore is available on the PS4 & Nintendo Switch. And of course, the monsters aren’t going to shoot themselves so they send us a copy to check it out.
What we liked!
- Feeling: It is obvious that this game is a 16-bit Run ‘n Gun and the developer and publisher made sure that you wouldn’t forget that here in 2020. When you start playing, everything just feels complete. The game has a perfect soundtrack and it has the right looks. They truly did a perfect job with reviving this game and releasing it for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. I mean, of course, the game was finished for a solid 99% before it got canceled, but to pick it up and revive it for 2 new consoles 25 years later, they sure did a great job. The game is still providing the feeling as if you were playing it back in 1994.
- Level design: The levels in Ultracore are looking pretty neat. They are not straight-up designed to follow a single path where you just simply shoot everything that is in your way. It’s more like a maze in which you encounter several types of enemies or launches and where you need to find door keys or new guns or just simple upgrades. It adds a whole extra layer to the game, which makes it fun. What also is a lovely factor, is that you have 5 lives and after you lost them you can use credit so that you can continue with another 5 extra lives. Unfortunately, the credits aren’t everlasting and you only get 3 each game.
- Save feature: There is one aspect in this game that I really don’t know how I feel about: the save feature. Or to put it in better words: the lack of one. You just simply can’t save the game while playing. If you are in the middle of a run and you need to go, well, too bad, you simply lose all your progress. To make up for this a little, the developers added in a code section. Once you completed a section of the game you will get a screen with a code on it which you can use in the main menu and you can start from that point. Of course, this is a nice feature, but if you are doing a full run off the game it sucks that you have to start all over again once you close it.
What we disliked
- Controls/tutorial: This was probably the most frustrating part of the whole game. There is not a single screen or bit of information that tells you what the purpose is of the different buttons on your controller. You just have to find out while playing what you need to do and how to do it. I think I was 1 or 2 hours in and still discovering new things I could do when I accidentally hit a button that I didn’t press before. And it’s something that can be easily fixed if they just add a photo or something that shows what every button is used for. Another thing that really bothered me was that the jumping control wasn’t always working properly. At one point, I was walking and needed to jump over a gap, and my character just walked into it. You really need to stand still before you can jump over something. It’s just really frustrating when you are losing lives because of a jump mechanic isn’t working correctly.
- Highscores: A nice feature of the game is that there is a highscores option in the main menu. And once you finished a run, or failed to finish one, you can still add your name to the highscores. A lovely and fun feature when competing against friends, I can think that we all agree on that. However, when you turn off the game on your Switch, all the highscores will be wiped and you need to start all over again. Even if you start playing again five minutes later, nothing’s left. I mean what’s the point of the feature if it will be constantly wiped?
After 25 years, they did a good job reviving this game and finally publishing it. The game really provides the 16-bit game feeling and the level designs and look of the game are great. However, in my opinion, a couple of key features of the game are missing or not working. There is no save option, they won’t tell you what controls you will have to use and even the high scores option in the main menu wipes itself every time you close the game. Only focusing on the things that are working, it’s still a lovely game to have in your library.