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The Slacker's Guide - The Old School, Now on a Lunch Box: Ultratron

by Chris Barylick
March 31st, 2006

Sometimes I wonder if an entire decade was essentially wasted. Growing up during the 1980's, my parents would take my sister and I roller-skating on the weekends, the general belief holding that this probably beat spending hours in front of the television ingesting a breakfast loaded with circles. It was there that I discovered some of the best video games I'd ever play.

New for their time, simple to play and just plain fun at 25 cents a pop, games like the original Gauntlet, Spy Hunter, Centipede, Dig-Dug, Dragon's Lair and half a dozen others kept me wanting more. Factor in bubble gum 80's love and power ballads, and things got just that much better.

The thing that stuck with me about these games turned out to be the simplicity of them. With almost no learning curve, the game was accessible to anyone who wanted to play. And amidst the arcade greats stood Robotron, one of the first move-and-fire video games that would help bring about later classics of its genre such as Smash TV, and influence almost every first person shooter/strategic strafing game to come.

Classics never die, they're simply resurrected in a different form that sometimes holds extremely true to their roots. Ultratron, a shareware video game by PuppyGames fits into this category. A faithful recreation at its best, Ultratron retains everything that made the 80's classics great between its flashing lights, excellent sound, wide variety of power-ups and increasingly challenging gameplay.

While it's one thing to create a video game in which the player simply shoots everything that moves, Ultratron hearkens back to the idea of tactics on two fronts. First, the player must dodge and fire as needed, avoiding the largest bodies of enemy droids while having enough room to maneuver if needed. Secondly, the player must select the power-ups that match their play style. Power-ups, when shot, will transform into different kinds of power-ups and the player must quickly weigh the decision as to what they need at any given moment, be it additional shields, an automatic weapon, bonus points or for the screen to be temporarily cleared of enemies.


Robotic laser combat in PuppyGames' "Ultratron".

True, this may not be the most original thing in the known universe, but PuppyGames has done its job well and made for an interesting game that's fun to hack around with for almost any given point in time. A terrific game structure makes the game increasingly challenging as time goes by so the nigh-masochistic thrill of thinking you're terrific at a game, then finding that the computer just got ten times better in the space of a single level change and you have to completely rethink your tactics remains.

Ultratron is available for a $9.95 registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.1 or later to run. The game is also available in Windows and Linux version. The game is a 4.3 megabyte download which expands to 5.2 megabytes when decompressed.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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