A character in Ultros leaps to a ledge.

Image: Hadoque

Sometimes it is when we are in the deepest depths of despair that a light shines through to give us renewed hope. This may be how fans of the Metroidvania genre are feeling as five years have come and gone since we first heard about Hollow Knight: Silksong, Team Cherry’s highly-anticipated insectoid side-scroller. With nary a release date in sight, the faithful have resorted to clown memes in an attempt to dull the pain this long wait has inflicted on them. Ah but what’s this? Ultros, from Swedish developer Hadoque, has arrived, acting as Metroidvania manna from heaven. The game begins with your amnesiac character waking up on The Sarcophagus, a giant space station that doubles as a cosmic uterus holding an ancient demonic being, the titular Ultros.

“What?” You may be asking. Don’t sweat the story too much, because Ultros nails its gameplay loop, unlocking abilities and exploring new areas while smartly interweaving roguelite elements that jive with its time-twisting narrative. A unique element of Ultros is its robust gardening mechanics. There are a slew of seeds to be planted across its psychedelic stages that all fill a role, whether for traversal or feeding to enemies and making them pals. Planting fruit in Ultros is so satisfying that this is the first title of its ilk where I sought out playing the pacifist path, but fret not—traditional combat is slick in its own right. Should Silksong slip out of this year, 2024 has already been a banner year for the Metroidvania genre. — Eric Schulkin


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