Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 3/28/20
If you're looking for an authentic old-school "Turrican" experience, there are really only two options: "Gunlord X" and "Ultracore." You could also try dusting off an old Amiga 500 and hope that your "Turrican II: The Final Fight" floppy disks still work, assuming you have a monitor that's even capable of displaying it. While "Gunlord X" is a lovingly blatant rip-off of the "Turrican" formula, "Ultracore" feels like a more pure experience, for lack of a better word. This is due to the fact that the game was originally developed back in 1994 for Amiga and Sega Genesis under the title, "Hardcore." It was nearly complete when publisher Psygnosis decided to cancel it due to those platforms' waning sales. Twenty-five years later, Strictly Limited Games got together with some of the original DICE developers to finish the game and port it to modern consoles. They also had to change the name due to copyright issues.
The result is pure nostalgic gold. The gameplay, art direction, color palette, and music are pitch perfect for the era, and it literally feels like you're playing an old Amiga game - albeit on a 60" TV screen with an ergonomic controller that has more than one button. The game also comes with an optional modern soundtrack, which is honestly one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a long time. Unfortunately, as the name implies, it's a difficult and unforgiving game. Not as sadistically punishing as games like "Slain" or "Valfaris," but it definitely demands pixel-perfect precision and split-second timing. It also artificially enforces difficulty by having a countdown timer, similar to the original "Turrican" games. The controls are tight and responsive, which helps to land those pixel-perfect jumps, and it's fun to run around and blast everything in sight in the game's grim and dreary, post-apocalyptic cyborg nightmare setting. However, I had to give up after only a couple hours when I got stuck on a series of seemingly impossible jumps in the second level, which feels like bad design more than anything. While I applaud the game's purity and authenticity, its lack of modern conveniences becomes increasingly frustrating. The UI menus are awkward and clunky, and the game employs an antiquated password system to save your progress. Additionally, the limited color palette is drab and becomes dull and boring after a while. Even so, that first hour of gameplay was pure joy and made me feel like a teenager again. That alone (along with the amazing soundtrack CD) was worth the price of admission.