Game Review: Ultra Pixel Survive (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox)

If you’ve read my reviews here or over on the Vita Player website, or watched some of my game reviews on our YouTube channel, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the indie games publisher Ratalaika Games. Specialising in porting 2D indie PC games to consoles, they’ve released an incredible number of games over the years, thanks to their custom tools that has allowed them to port titles developed with most game development tools with ease. One of their most recent titles, Ultra Pixel Survive developed by Gold Skull Studios, is one such release but is the retro-styled survival RPG worth checking out?

Ultra Pixel Survive In A Nutshell

Offering a mix of characters to the player, Ultra Pixel Survive can be best described as a retro-styled pixel art hybrid game. It blends action, RPG, with crafting elements presented in and old-school side-on view. Creatures to kill, weapons to upgrade and build, and even food to cook and grow, for a small game it packs an almighty punch…

First Impressions

When I first saw the screenshots for Ultra Pixel Survive, I have to be honest and say that I was somewhat wary of it. It reminded me somewhat of the 2D Minecraft inspired Terraria. And frankly that filled me with dread. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Minecraft, and Terraria even less so I wasn’t too sure that I was going to tolerate, let alone enjoy this.

But within a few minutes of play, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ultra Pixel Survive proved to be a completely different gaming experience altogether. The immediate similarities to Minecraft lie with the harvesting and crafting elements. You start off equipped with three tools – an axe, pickaxe and sword. The axe is used for chopping down trees, the pickaxe for breaking rocks, and the sword for attack and defense.

Let’s Go Gathering

Collecting resources is probably the key part to the game. Wood can obviously be obtained from trees, coal and stones from rocks but there’s plenty of other material to be found. Different fruits and vegetables can be found growing or on trees. In the underground mines, different metallic ores can be discovered and some of the wildlife can be killed for their meat.

All of these are essential throughout the game to upgrade your tools, build new equipment and defenses for your house, or to cook to restore your health. Food has another essential part to play in the game which I found to play a welcome part, even if it was frustrating at times… hunger. You need to eat regularly or you run out of energy to carry out routine tasks, even if you have enough health (ie HP) to carry on safely. It makes sense logically, and it’s nice to see in a budget priced game.

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Surprisingly, the game world for Ultra Pixel Survive is rather small. There is the forest area where you start, a beach, and as I mentioned earlier an underground cave where you can mine for additional resources. Each area is connected and the game map wraps around so you can walk in a straight line in one direction and eventually end up back where you started.

But in this case, it’s not a particularly bad thing as it allows you to focus on the gameplay itself rather than worrying about mapping a landscape. If you need to know where to go to get to a mine, your house or anywhere else, just walk. It takes away one stress so you can just get on with enjoying the game and having fun playing it.

Gameplay

Gamplay in Ultra Pixel Survive is simple enough. Gather materials and resources while defending yourself from attacking creatures scattered around the game world. However, you need to bear in mind the time. The game uses an ever changing day/night cycle and substantially more creatures appear at night (and more dangerous ones) so you have to be extra vigilant. Once you run out of HP it’s either game over or you can continue from the last time you saved the game using the bed in the house.

As with any RPG, the more creatures you kill, you earn more XP which will gradually increase your character’s level. Doing this will increase your HP but also award you one level point. These can be used in crafting to increase your tool’s abilities or to increase your HP even further. And the longer you last in the game, this will become an absolute life-saver.

You Are Not Alone…

Fear not, you don’t have to survive this quest alone. As you progress further, you’re joined on your adventure by additional characters. These will attack other creatures automatically and will level up alongside you becoming more effective over time. As you start exploring the mines these trusty allies will be all the more important. But none so much as when you reach the tenth day…

This is when the bosses start to appear! As well as much tougher adversaries, the bosses are not only huge (as you would expect) but have an incredible amount of health and will need every last bit of strength you and your team have to defeat them. It’s a case of cunning, crafting traps and weapons, and careful use of upgrades or you’ll have no chance.

Shopping Spree

Like all good RPGs, Ultra Pixel Survive has a shop available to players although this is only available at the start each time you play the game. Here you can spend the coins and gems you’ve collected from creatures you’ve defeated. You can use these to upgrade your character, or unlock new ones to use during play, many of which would be familiar to you once you’ve been playing for a while.

This opening menu also gives you the option to choose your character when playing the game but this is where my big gripe comes with the game. It only has the opportunity for a single save game slot and when it comes to starting the game the default option is to start a new game which will wipe your existing save data! To continue where you left off you have to actively select your previously saved game. This has happened to me a few times where I’ve had to start from the beginning. It might only be a small game, but it’s still frustrating.

Going Retro

As I said at the start, the game adopts a 2D pixel art style. My first thought when I saw screenshots showcasing the crafting menu made me think about Terraria, but it’s more like a side-scrolling hack-and-slash. The visuals are nice and chunky although if I am honest a lot of the creatures you encounter are indistinguishable from one another. This is the one downside I have found with a lot of games that use this visual style and Ultra Pixel Survive is no exception. Slightly higher definition could still keep the retro look, while still making things clearer for the player.

Closing Thoughts

For what is essentially a simple game, I found Ultra Pixel Survive to be incredibly addictive. There’s enough depth to create a real strategic element to planning your defenses as well as your character development. With resources being limited, especially your level points you really need to use careful judgement to make it through each day even with the help of your support team.

It’s this added layer that lifts this beyond a simple budget priced hack and slash game. With plenty of characters to unlock, each with their own unique skills offering extended replayability, this is a superb game that you won’t want to miss out on. Worth every penny no matter what format you buy it for.

About Simon Plumbe 210 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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