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Ultros Sets a New Standard for Immersive, Thought-Provoking Metroidvanias

The indie Metroidvania genre has exploded in recent years, providing players with countless unique adventures to explore. While many aim to emulate classic titles, Ultros stands out with its quirky focus on horticulture. Developed by indie studio Green Thumb Games, Ultros immerses players in a psychedelic jungle filled with carnivorous plants and strange monsters. With charming visuals and satisfying exploration-based gameplay, it proves that botany buffs can have fun too.

Ultros Sets a New Standard for Immersive, Thought-Provoking Metroidvanias

A Delightfully Strange Metroidvania for Plant Lovers

In Ultros, players control a mysterious protagonist who awakens in a lush jungle without any memories. Early on, they discover strange abilities that allow manipulation of the local flora and fauna. For example, certain flowers can be commanded to spit blobs of acid at enemies or erect thorny barriers. Larger monstrous plant creatures like venus flytraps can also be befriended to assist in combat or platforming challenges. These novel bio-powers add an layer of puzzle-solving and strategy to combat not typically seen in the genre.

Strange environments and enemies await around every corner of Ultros' extensive overworld. Players frequently encounter psychedelic backdrops, such as psychedelic mushroom groves emitting eerie glows or swamplands filled with carnivorous lilies. Monster designs range from adorable to downright disturbing, such as tiny frog-like beasts with massive grins or bulbous spiders with fang-filled maws. Overall, Ultros presents a bizarre yet beautiful garden world that stays imaginative throughout. While its visuals may not match blockbuster titles, Green Thumb Games succeeds in crafting a visually distinct aesthetic within technical limitations.

Exploration proves deeply satisfying in Ultros thanks to its careful level design. As with most Metroidvania titles, players gradually gain new abilities that unlock new areas of the map. These powers allow engagement with the game's many environmental puzzles. For example, early on a tall cliff may block progress, but later a ability to throw spiked vines is acquired to create climbable walls. Alternately, acid-spitting flowers can clear toxic gas from a cave entrance. Constantly finding and utilizing these abilities to access new sections of the map provides a great sense of player agency.

Subtle musical cues and ambient sound effects also enhance Ultros' atmosphere. Forest ambience plays during peaceful moments, punctuated with ominous layers as threats near. Distorted notes creep in whenever new enemies or areas are discovered. Ultimately, Ultros succeeds at full immersion with its sights and sounds alone, transporting players to an intriguing natural wonderland. The game's strangeness constantly surprises and delights throughout the 10+ hour journey.

Ultros also delivers satisfying boss encounters against hulking plant monstrosities. These epic showdowns test a variety of tactics learned throughout areas. For example, one colossal boss can only be damaged after destroying smaller parasites feeding on its body first. Alternately, a towering venus flytrap's multiple tendril heads must be destroyed simultaneously with well-timed acid spit attacks. Conquering these nightmarish garden guardians provides an incredible sense of achievement.

While combat can feel floaty at first, Ultros tightens up wonderfully as new skills are acquired. Abilities like charging vine attacks or dash-dodges provide greater precision. Key is maintaining distance from swift smaller foes while strategizing multi-target alpha strikes against cramped enemy packs. Later enemies also dish out seriously damaging area of effect attacks, increasing the strategic depth. By the end, combat achieves a satisfying flow befitting an action game.

Ultros also features new game+ options for replayability. Upon completing the main journey, players can restart with all abilities intact on a higher difficulty. This allows true mastery of Ultros' advanced techniques against beefier threats. Speedrun modes and daily challenge quests are also unlockable post-game to engage the most dedicated players. With multiple endings depending on hidden factors, Ultros ensures repeat adventures remain fresh.

As with any ambitious indie title, Ultros does have some rough edges. Some platforming challenges can feel less precise than expected. And while the game looks beautiful, occasional texture or loading hiccups do occur on lower-end systems. However, Green Thumb Games continues supporting the title with patches, making these issues less common over time. Most importantly, Ultros delivers where it counts with entertaining gameplay systems and memorable atmosphere, making any flaws forgivable.

In an era where blockbuster franchises seem to favor photorealistic graphics, Ultros proves games can be beautiful without hyperrealism. Its unique focus on the wonders and terrors of the natural world results in an experience like no other in the Metroidvania genre. Players looking for something delightfully strange and botanically bizarre need look no further. With fun exploration, challenging combat encounters and post-game hooks, Ultros provides tens of hours of engrossing entertainment for plant lovers and curious gamers alike. Its strange yet charming world makes this eccentric adventure an easy recommendation.


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