[PlayStation Vita] Ultracore Review
Ultracore from ININ Games is an old-school 2D action-platformer with an awesome soundtrack, out now on PS Vita. Learn more in our Ultracore review!
Ultracore has had a very interesting path to release. The game was in development at Digital Illusions, who are known today as DICE, under the name “HardCore” for the Sega Genesis/CD (known as the Mega Drive and the Mega CD in other regions), and even the Amiga way back in the early 1990s. Prior to release, development was abandoned in order to shift efforts to the next generation of consoles. For more than two decades, “HardCore” was believed to be lost, since even DICE no longer had the source code. In 2017, Strictly Limited Games managed to locate a copy of the original build and started working on this port for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. There were even members of the original DICE team working on this release!
Ultracore is a retro action-platformer. There is a nice variety of weapons to collect, and each can be powered up twice if you find the required in-game pickups. There are also extra lives, coins, health recovery items, smart bombs, and special weapon ammo available as pickups. You can control your character’s movement with either the PlayStation Vita’s D-pad or the left analog stick, and control your weapon’s firing with either the square button or the right analog stick. I found myself drawn to the twin-stick style on offer since it felt better. It’s a configuration that would not have been possible for the game’s original release, so kudos to the porting team for making the choice of adding twin-stick controls as an option. You cycle through your available weapons with the Triangle button and must be aware that any weapon other than your main weapon is going to use up ammo.
Because of this, I would use the base weapon as I played each stage, saving the special weapons with consumable ammo to deal with the different boss fights I ran into. Let’s talk about those boss fights for a second. They’re very reminiscent of boss fights you would’ve encountered in many old-school games from 20 years ago. You have to carefully study your opponents to maximize the moments you’ll have for attacking it.
The enemies in each level are varied, but some are just straight up not fair in how they seem to be able to attack you no matter what you’re doing to evade them. You can bounce on their heads, although that doesn’t kill them. Bouncing makes for an interesting option to escape from some more challenging fights and is integral to traversing some of the more difficult platforming sections of the game.
Ultracore is unrelenting in its old-school design decisions when it comes to its difficulty. This game will test your reflexes in a way that harkens back to the games of yesterday. It is very easy to be overwhelmed if you don’t take your time and methodically manage each battle. Luckily there is a password system, so you can come back to the game if you happen to rage quit in the middle of an unrelenting fight. My frustrations with the small control sticks and face buttons, along with the old-school mentalities with regards to difficulty, had me pulling my hair out at times, but after taking a small break, I was ready to once again take on this challenging but fun experience.
It’s a miracle that this old-school game was even recovered, and what has been delivered to us on PS Vita is a classic 2D side-scrolling action-platformer that is punishingly difficult at times, but still a fun trip. Ultracore is available now, faithfully restored for the Playstation Vita, for $26.99.
This Ultracore review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by ININ Games.