It has been a little while since I played a Ratalaika Games title, but the latest is that developed by Gold Skull Studios – Ultra Pixel Survive. You can probably tell from the name that the aim is to survive in a pixel art world. And that is pretty much the whole idea, so thanks very much for reading, and goodnight!
… Apparently I have to say a bit more about the game, something to do with a minimum word count or some such nonsense. So, come with me to a pixel world and let’s see if we can survive.
Presentation of Ultra Pixel Survive is pretty much as you would expect. The game is presented in a side scrolling, 2D kind of world, and there are various features in the landscape that you can utilise to your advantage. The graphics are cute and colourful, and while they aren’t going to make a ZX Spectrum sweat, they do work quite well. I’m not sure I’m seeing the Series X|S Optimised bit of the graphics, however…
Sound is minimal and quite relaxing; the smash of axes hitting trees or pickaxes splitting rocks drifts in on the breeze, and all in all the presentation is very nice indeed.
How about a story, a narrative thread that pulls together all the surviving that we are trying to do? Well, no, there isn’t much of that going on here in Ultra Pixel Survive. Basically, you have a house, a scrolling area to have a look around, a day/night cycle and your wits, and that is all the game will tell you. Where we are, who we are, what we are doing – that is all very much a blank slate. We merely have to stay alive with no motivation besides keeping our skin intact.
Ultra Pixel Survive is however an almost perfect example of a game of two halves. This split occurs when the sun goes down, so it is best to start with what happens in the day, isn’t it?
Well, when we choose our hero and spawn in, we have an axe, a pickaxe and a sword – that is it. In order to stay alive, we will need to gather resources, and so head off to the nearest tree or rock, select the correct tool and start hacking away. Life is easy in the day as while there are enemies, they are only weak slime type foes, easily killed with the application of a pointed bit of steel. While the sun is shining, it is the best time to prepare your defences for the upcoming night, and the crafting interface is simple, but works well. You can build walls, spikes, campfires (these only have a limited life, though) and so on. You can also upgrade various things if you can gather enough materials, and having an upgraded sword can make all the difference.
As you explore, there are a few different areas to find, such as caves and the such-like to find, but there isn’t a massive amount of variety on display. Think of Ultra Pixel Survive as a mixture of a 2D platformer and Minecraft and you won’t be too far off, although the things you can build are constrained.
When the night falls, it is a whole different story, literally. You know those defences that I spoke about building in the day? This is when they will get tested, as in the best traditions of other survival building type games, the night is when the baddies come out to play. And don’t think you can just go to sleep and wait for morning – although there is a bed, and interacting with it allows you to save the game, you can’t hide in there all night. In fact, the timer stops when you are in the house, and so the only way to carry on to morning is to get out there and fight.
Fight you will, but the combat in Ultra Pixel Survive is a bit hit and miss, if you will pardon the pun. You see, as you swing your sword about, a stamina bar depletes, and when it is gone you can’t do anything for a moment, which is usually long enough for you to meet your end. Each character also has a secondary attack, which is more powerful, but has quite a long cooldown. The hero we have at the start, for instance, has a boomerang he can throw, but it takes a while to ready up again, so it is best saved for emergencies.
Yet should you manage to stay alive until morning, you are rewarded with a chest that contains currency, and it is this that is used in the menu to buy new heroes to try out. Sadly, the cost is very high for each hero, and Ultra Pixel Survive is not quite good enough for the kind of grind that would be necessary for all.
From there, you’re basically looking at a case of rinse and repeat until bored but as this is a Ratalaika game, by the time you have survived until the third day, it has thrown all of the Xbox achievements at you, removing even more desire to keep playing the game. I disagree profoundly with this approach, as without something to aim at, what is the point? It’s a marketing strategy that has worked well for them though.
In all, Ultra Pixel Survive is fun in short blasts, and getting a good defence set-up going is pretty satisfying. However, even with the low asking price in mind, you may still feel a little short changed. In fact, if you want to play a survival game featuring building, I’d suggest Minecraft.