Ultros Review – Plant power

Reviewed March 14, 2024 on PC


PS4, PC, PS5


February 13, 2024


Kepler Interactive



The new Metroidvania platformer, Ultros, has gamers talking about its amazing cosmic-coloured art style and for a good reason – it’s gorgeous. The aesthetic vibes of the game remind me of a cross between a 90s dance club and an alien cult den with its vibrant colour palette of swirling neon greens and yellows. These visuals connect beautifully with the mysterious, time-bending nature of the game and your journey to understand what exactly is this strange world that you have crash-landed on.

The premise of Ultros is that you are some kind of space traveller who finds themselves stranded on a mysterious planet called the “The Sarcophagus” an intricate uterus drifting through space holding within it an evil being called Ultros. Your mission is to “free” a number of bodies from their womb-like enclosure whilst trying to find out where exactly you are, what exactly you are doing and what exactly the consequences of your actions will be. However, after “freeing” each body you are sent back to the beginning of the game in the form of a time “loop” mechanic. The game makes it obvious that you are making this change, delivering the message on screen: “The cycle begins anew, Let our quiet mycelium lament the unrest and return to what once was.”

This type of speech is continuous throughout the game; the lore is delivered in weird snippets of rambling prose. The story of the game was an interesting concept for me but the way it was delivered left me frustrated due to how vague and ‘flowery’ the language used was. The complexity of the way the narrative is told isn’t something that I value in Ultros. Not only is it confusing but it also isn’t fully accessible to those who struggle with reading or language, which is disappointing.

However, one of the most interesting things about Ultros is the way its two major gameplay modes are extremely opposing in nature. There’s the standard combat mode where you slash your way through alien enemies big and small. Then there’s the concept of planting and building the world of the game with more swirling plant tendrils of colour. Obviously, Hadoque, the game’s developer is making a statement about the complexities of life and death and how both are intricately linked. As humans, we can be both destructive and nurturing, both killer and creator – our world, like that of Ultros, needs this balance for it to continue.

When you do kill the aliens of Ultros, you are usually rewarded with some food that can either be used to boost your health and stats or can be used to upgrade your skills. These skills can be found when you find one of the many “cortexes” scattered around the world.  These are small futuristic-looking pods that are used as save points but also grant you access to the game’s skill tree. Here you can buy combat skills such as Drop Kick and Power Slide, or skills that will help with traversing around the world such as Track Garden, which reveals garden locations on your map, and also Green Thumb, which lets you plant your food into the ground which turns it into compost. All these skills are possible via “The extractor” a device that is connected to you by some sort of string and dangles above you looking like an alien walkie-talkie.

Gardening in the game is much more complex than its combat. Areas of glowing earth are where you can plant your seeds and watch them grow into neon tentacles that may sprout food but can also expand your path leading you to extra areas. The game’s design director Mårten Brüggemann has emphasised the importance of this gaming mechanism by saying that it is “integral to progressing and finding the different endings to the story.” So though players of Metroidvanias may be tempted to skip this slow cozy game mechanic, it really is imperative to uncover all the game has to offer. The inclusion of gardening mechanics within Metroidvanias has led to a new sub-genre, “gardenvanias”, so there are bound to be many more games that follow Ultros’ gardening trope.

Whilst you are traversing around the world that is dripping in acid tones, the game provides an amazing original soundtrack from composer Oscar Rydelius, who has previously provided music for games such as Wunderlings. Rydelius travelled to Peru where he recorded wildlife in the Amazon. He aimed to make something “a bit outlandish, alien-like” but also feed in sounds that players would recognise. There was “a lot of experimentation” to create a “perfect balance of familiarity and the unknown.” The lengths that Rydelius went to create the musical world of Ultros really adds to the themes of regeneration, nature and the cycle of things.

Though the many time loop restarts in the game add to its alien vibe and mysterious energy, the impact it has on orientation in the game left me feeling quite frustrated. The addition of the map, which includes the location of every single body that you need to release, is extremely helpful, but finding a way to get to these bodies sees a lot of backward and forwarding, very similar to the winding paths of Hollow Knight. Also like Hollow Knight, Ultros brings a fresh take on Metroidvania through the weaving elements of cosy gaming gardening in with slashing combat.




  • Complex messages about life and death
  • Gorgeous psychedelic world
  • Gameplay is easy to understand
  • Soundtrack is extremely atmospheric and adds to the vibe of the game


  • Narrative is convoluted and not accessible to all
  • Can be hard to navigate due to the winding, complicated nature of the world

Ultros is a stunning space ride through the trippy landscape of The Sarcophagus that will keep players wondering what secrets they will uncover amidst the captivating backdrop. Though the narrative can be hard to get your head around and the world is easy to get lost in the “gardenvania” concept brings additional magic to the Metroidvania genre. Ultros has paved the way for the genre to not play it safe and is one of those experiences that reiterates how games can still present us with unique ideas and worlds.