Ultreia is RedDeer Games‘ best game to date. Granted, they ported and published Olivier De Rop’s title, but they have an eye for indie games, offering a diverse catalogue that includes The Last Survey, Little Mouse’s Encyclopedia and the recent Inukari.
Their latest release is a point and click adventure for the Nintendo Switch. The press information states that the game was influenced/inspired by Grim Fandango. Any P&C fan worth their weight in grog could pitch a tent with that reference, but it’s just an opinion. Like this review. But seeing as you’re still reading this, my opinion is this: Ulreia is technically in the same league. Technically though, not so much in terms of characters or depth.
Our story begins with a death – our protagonist’s father who was murdered. Seeking to avenge their death, Nymo hears a voice that tells them to seek out the planet Ultreia. Said planet has all the answers they seek – and not just the identification of the perp, but on an existential level. To reach this enlightened location, they must travel to Mount St-Troy and acquire a ship that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsnips. Intentional.
As a point and click, you’ll be sent off on numerous errands.
“Do you know of a way to get to Mount St-Troy?”
“Sure. If you can steal some illegal substance for me”.
“Could you tell me the time?”
“Absolutely. Just reach into my pants…”
Yeah, the tasks in Ultreia are trivial and coincidental(?), but it confirms that robots are don’t do nothing for no-one for nothing. The first location after the intro is where you befriend a familiar LucasArts ‘inspired’ character and do their dirty work, harass the guests at a hotel, get involved in psychedelics and earn some wings. A lot is going on in Ultreia, but I’m afraid it’s a little… short.
Not Pants Quest short, which isn’t a bad thing, I hasten to add, but it left me wanting more as the ending felt quite abrupt but satisfying. As a consumer of many films and narrative-driven games, it was clear where the story was heading, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. It’s not necessarily a unique one, but it was enjoyable.
Alas, there isn’t any voice acting, which would have helped a great deal. Dialogue paths have multiple choices, but only one will be the way forward. It’s concisely written, but the humour was inconsistent with a few Guybrush jokes chucked in then a drought. That’s not to say Ultreia is a comedy game – it isn’t, but the tones were sometimes erratic. That said, it’s countered by some gorgeous visuals.
I don’t like robots; I’ll make that clear. With that firmly confirmed, I have to say that I loved the character models in Ultreia – especially Nymo once he ‘evolves’ through his journey. When you get to Mount St. Troy, the gentlemen’s club was a highlight. With a seedy jazz track, perfect lighting and some varied characters, I’d have happily stayed in this place for the duration. This stylistic approach puts it technically on par with Grim Fandango.
I was on the front line back in 90-whatever when it came out on PC and remembered being blown away by the visuals, cinematography and 3D(!) graphics. Ultreia is similar in that the renders are superb, the locations beautifully crafted, and there are more cutscenes than a Command & Conquer omnibus. Being a product of that era, I love cutscenes as they were the reward for progression. Here it’s gorgeous – my only complaint is the game is very dark (even after adjusting the monitor and TV settings).
On that basis, there’s quite a bit of pixel hunting, and despite having a hotspot button, you may miss the icon – a small circle. One of them is on the left boob of a robot ‘courtesan’. Filth! That wasn’t hard to find – not that I was staring, but some blend in with the art, and it’s not always clear what you can interact with. However, fiddling with the inventory will often solve the problem, and this isn’t a game you’re likely to get stuck on.
Irrespective of its flaws – predominantly the character development and lack of voice acting – Ultreia was the highlight of my gaming week. It didn’t take long to finish, and not your typical laugh-a-thon point and click adventure. If you were knocking about when Grim Fandango was first released, you might appreciate this more in terms of the presentation and the nostalgia, even if there’s no Manny, Day of the Dead or Glottis. I, for one, loved this and gets my sexy seal of approval.