Tag Archives: you blockhead

REVIEW: Ultra Aktion!

Imagine if someone took yours and my beloved Contra, replaced every character and enemy with squares and rectangles, cut the game’s length down to a third, stripped it of most of its alien / 80s dudebro charm, and released it as Ultra Aktion!12 ($1.00). In essence, that’s what you’re getting here.

And much like Contra, there’s not much to Ultra Aktion! other than said dudebro3 shooting. ‘Evil is bad / Kill evil with guns / Save world’ is the game’s entire justification (albeit satirical) for its setup. Not that it needs much of a setup. It’s pure side-scrolling shooting with a solid feel, replete with familiar Contra-esque gun powerups (the ‘spread shot’ is still God, all these years later) and blocky environs that vaguely resemble the style of those retro levels.

You can play though the rather paltry three levels alone, or with up to three others in local co-op, but there’s not much reason to. The whole thing can be completed in less than fifteen minutes, with the levels just looping back around until you run out of lives (the game isn’t that difficult) or just give up and return to the menu. Minus the aforementioned powerups, Ultra Aktion!‘s casual design doesn’t evoke much nostalgia, and plenty of other games have done far better at mimicking what makes Contra work.

Ultra Aktion! - Screen2

So it’s hard to figure who would be interested in Ultra Aktion! The game is honestly and correctly labeled as a ‘short’, which is probably meant to excuse its simpleness and brevity, but that’s not to say it should be forgiven for it. Were the aktion…. ummm, action… onscreen a little more competent or unique, it might not have mattered. As is, Ultra Aktion! is better to listen to for its chippy soundtrack than take part in its terribly uninspired gameplay.

  1. Not sure of the reason for the deliberate misspelling of ‘action’, unless developer Fun Infused Games just prefers the German form of the word…. …. maybe? 
  2. Also, no Konami code? That’s just unfathomable. 
  3. Well, duderectangle, I guess. 

REVIEW: Null Battles

Null Battles (80 MSP) is not what I expected. Not that I really had any idea what to expect, what with all the colors and the block people and the shapes, the screenshots I used here that don’t really present the game as it is. And that is a minimalist FPS that kicks gravity and fixed perspectives to the curb, sort of like recent XBLA title Hybrid, allowing you to boost all over the map and attach to different platforms and surfaces, but with more freedom of movement once you land.

Counting off into two teams or four (it’s always Team Deathmatch time in Null Battles) with differing amounts of players / bots and time limits, the team with the highest score wins. Rinse and repeat. Your ‘block guy’, for lack of a more literal term, carries a long-range laser, good from any distance, and a wider (but shorter) beam shot for up close and personal encounters; a melee-equivalent move, if you will. The fighting is disorienting at first, especially if you like to quickly move from platform to platform to avoid death, but it feels second nature after a short time.

As far as pre-match options and arena settings go, Null Battles gives you a ridiculously-thorough assortment. Change your team name (I don’t like to brag, but ‘theXBLIGs’ kicked ass every time out), team color, and reticle. Change room size, shape, and all the platform shapes within it, including density and appearance. Hell, if a new, procedurally-generated arena for each match doesn’t scratch your itch, use the included level editor to make it exactly how you want it.

That same ‘kitchen sink’ mentality, sadly doesn’t extend to the battles once you’re in-game. Nor will you entirely mind. It’s straightforward, no-frills shooting, but the shifting views and constant firefights don’t give you time to critique. Rocketing across the map and exploding an enemy blockhead in mid-flight simply does not get old. The absence of any other weapons or powerups bothered me at first, but that the game kept me involved and playing with its limited arsenal speaks well enough on its worth. Still would have liked to have seen rocket launchers.

Seems like a Daft Punk music video. Is not.

In addition to the local split-screen and system link options, there’s an online mode that may or may not have a decent network code capable of supporting the listed 16-player rooms. I wouldn’t know, you see, as I couldn’t find a single online match to test it out on. Day or night. Ever. It’s typical of the scene, so I can’t say I’m surprised. It is a continual shame, not just for developers that put in the time and work on building any multiplayer game, but for the unique and deserving titles (ahem, this one) to get the cold shoulder treatment.

As such, Null Battles is a solid, albeit basic building blocks (pun intended), zero-gravity take on the FPS that sadly doesn’t have any chance of building an online community. Offline, the AI bots are surprisingly adept and competitive, and that fun is no doubt quadrupled if you can pull off the 4-player local. It may lack refinement and the variety and weapon options needed to thrive, but it’s definitely worthy of your dollar if you’re trying for something different in your shooters.