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UltraGoodness Review

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UltraGoodness gave us an acute sense of deja vu. We knew we had played something like it before, but hadn’t considered that we had actually reviewed its successor two years ago. Confusingly, UltraGoodness has been released two years after UltraGoodness 2, presumably because Rasul Mono and Ratalaika Games felt like we needed some more UltraGoodness in our lives. 

Comparing the two games side by side is an interesting exercise, as we would have pointed a finger at UltraGoodness and said that it was the sequel, not UltraGoodness 2. It’s deeper, more varied, and slightly more inaccessible. For all its flaws, it’s a net improvement on UltraGoodness 2, which is not something you expect to say about a game’s relationship to its sequel. 

ultragoodness review 1
UltraGoodness – better than the sequel?

UltraGoodness isn’t really bothered with story stuff. There’s an apocalypse, evil hordes are overwhelming the kingdom, and you, the King, brush off your guns and spells to take them down. It’s a murderfest, and there’s nothing that resembles plot development beyond what we’ve mentioned. Which is all fine with us. 

Instead of a story-heavy game, UltraGoodness is a gore-heavy game. It’s a twin-stick shooter in the purest sense of those words, dropping you into small-ish arenas that are absolutely stacked with enemies and letting the giblets fly. As you take tentative steps further into the world, waves of enemies are triggered, and they absolutely hurtle towards you. So you reply with a jab of the analogue stick and the RT button, mowing them down with streams of bullets. 

More so than most twin-stick shooters, the odds are stacked in the enemies’ favour. There’s a ridiculous number of them, for one, which means that careless players will get overwhelmed quickly. You need to take the dungeon in chunks, otherwise there will be more enemies than you have bullets, and that’s not a good equation to be on the end of. 

The enemies are procedurally placed, and they’re on such a broad spectrum of challenge. Progress can often be determined by how kind the RNG is to you. Antlered enemies wander away from you when you approach, and they’re a joy to kill; kamikaze enemies come in for an explosive hug, and they’re an absolute pain. One is clearly more dangerous than the either, but UltraGoodness is just as likely to drop one down as the other. 

ultragoodness review 2
Progress may rely on RNG

It all makes for tense, slow progress. We jealously guarded the best power-ups and summons in the game (chests often hand you creatures that circle and do some killing for you), moving in baby steps through the level in case we suddenly encountered a horde or particularly evil enemy. Often it didn’t matter, as we got hit anyway: large squares in the environment are to be feared, as they can often house unkillable blades and hulking spider bosses. So, we made-do. We conserved our health, ran away if necessary, and slowly but surely killed every enemy in the arena. 

That’s the goal. Complete destruction of your enemy. There are a finite number of feral dogs, wild flowers and other beasts of the wasteland. Once you have killed them all, an exit opens and you can slink off to the next level. That often represents progress. Get to certain level-milestones and you can unlock new characters to play (the King is your lone protagonist for only the first few levels), and can start your run from the latest level. 

It’s a tempo that won’t be for everyone. It’s an oppressive old game is UltraGoodness, punishing any small failure with one or more health dinks. You can be overwhelmed and surrounded, finding that your entire life pool has been sucked away. At this point, there’s almost no point in continuing, as you need some life buffer for the various ambushes that UltraGoodness throws your way. You can almost guarantee that you will lose health before the end of the level. 

It’s also a rough play on occasion, as the difficulty bumps up against some usability problems. Finding the final enemy in a level is more fiddly than in UltraGoodness 2, and your surroundings house enough traps and acid pools that can cause you to lose your last life. Then there’s the general lack of readability of the screen: UltraGoodness can be a junkyard of enemies, bullets, explosions, power-ups and other gameplay elements, and it can be verging on the impossible to understand what’s going on. We lost count of the number of times that we strayed into an acid pool because it camouflages with the backdrop. 

ultragoodness review 3
UltraGoodEnough?

And while it’s difficult, UltraGoodness is not overly long. It’s possible to sprint through the levels in less than an hour, particularly if you’re better than us at this sort of game. We suspect that twin-stick aficionados will blitz this in moments. While there are two characters to unlock, they’re unlocked within the first fifteen minutes, and that doesn’t leave much else to work towards. It can feel like you’re done with UltraGoodness before the finishing line appears. 

We had a decent enough time with UltraGoodness, but weren’t blown away. We like some momentum in our twin-stick shooters, as we dance about the enemies and let our barrels loose. But the balance of power has shifted more towards the enemies in UltraGoodness, and that means that levels can be slow, timid affairs as you creep from area to area hoping that nothing bypasses your defence. We prefer it when we’re the ones that enemies need to beware.

Still, there’s enough to like about this relentless twin-stick shooter. Being procedurally generated means that levels are rarely similar, and it has such a big box of enemies to pull from that you can’t help but be impressed. If you like challenge and can push through the constant game over screens, then UltraGoodness may not quite deserve that ‘Ultra’ prefix, but it’s still fine. UltraGoodEnough?

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Strong randomisation
  • Wide range of enemies
  • Heart in your mouth as you play
Cons:
  • Could have done with some extra speed
  • Feels too tentative to explore
  • Doesn’t last overly long
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 14 July 2023 | £4.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Strong randomisation</li> <li>Wide range of enemies</li> <li>Heart in your mouth as you play</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Could have done with some extra speed</li> <li>Feels too tentative to explore</li> <li>Doesn’t last overly long</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 14 July 2023 | £4.99</li> </ul>UltraGoodness Review
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