Create a mirror dimension to solve puzzles in this 2D puzzle platformer, Ugly! Unveil a dark narrative about a tormented nobleman as you use the innovative mechanic with new, unique interactions. But is its innovative mechanic as impressive as it might seem at first glance or is it far too complex for anyone to enjoy?
First, I'd like to get the negatives of Ugly out of the way — none. Okay, jokes aside, I think my biggest quarrel with Ugly was the fact that I genuinely enjoyed it a lot — too much — and finished it in just about three hours, excluding the couple of times I left the game running and got distracted. As a puzzle title, it definitely depends on how much you'll wrestle with all of the different puzzles and mechanics.
This does mean that Ugly is the type of title you'll pick up and play over an afternoon, cry a couple of times from the puzzles and your brain hurting, drop it for a while because you can't figure it out because you've solved too many puzzles, and then pick it up again. While some may find the length off-putting — even I, who often hates short titles — Ugly manages to remain encaptivating throughout it all by introducing unique mechanics, and I'd rather quality over quantity, something Team Ugly handled masterfully.
So, over the course of the few hours you'll be playing, you will take control of a nobleman that, quite frankly, is ugly. Yes, the entire premise of the game revolves around your character being ugly and his father being abusive, telling the story through small glimpses that are entirely optional to check out and can sometimes be a bit abstract. They are still very simple to understand despite their abstract nature, and they aren't invasive, especially for those who are only interested in the puzzle element.
Though I often don't like stories like these, Ugly manages to incorporate its narrative to encourage those who are interested whilst not being intrusive to those who don't care. In fact, despite its abstract nature, I liked how straightforward Ugly told its ending to stop anyone from misunderstanding, spelling it out clearly. It's a psychological horror title that does a great job of making you care for its narrative without a single word being uttered by the character.
The bread and butter of Ugly is its gameplay, despite how many praises I sing of its simple yet engrossing narrative. You have the unique power of using a mirror shard to create a replica of yourself that can go through walls and that follows your every movement — after he is in a place where you could reside, you can click the designated button to switch places with your reflection. This gives you the capability to go through walls, and make impressive movements, ultimately working as your core mechanic, upon which Ugly builds the rest of its gameplay.
Every level is designated by a door locked behind a golden key in the castle, and within each of these, you can find smaller stages that are unlocked by using a silver key. You can really tackle any of the rooms in whichever order you prefer, and each "golden" area becomes more complex as you unlock their relevant keys. Furthermore, and this is the best part of Ugly, each golden door's area has a unique mechanic and gimmick that you'll need to use and master to get through it.
So, every main level includes around six or more silver doors to go through, and each one uses the same gimmick that gets introduced at the start of the golden door. These can range from momentum-based mechanics to unique walls that prevent your reflection from moving in a certain direction. From there, you need to use your wits to overcome the puzzles that await, and some of these are mind-boggling that give you a very satisfying "aha” moment as soon as you complete them.
Once you’ve finished the main puzzles, there is an optional second (and third) part that includes a slew of more challenging levels, giving you a bit more gameplay for those who are enchanted by its premise. With these, you’ll use the skills you learned in each area to reach a specific object, and this unlocks not only more gameplay for you to enjoy but also the game’s true ending, meaning that even once the credits roll, you have a bit more to go through.
Ugly's premise is simple, and on paper, it even sounds a tad uninspired; even the game’s store page manages to undersell the experience. But in practice, it makes for a puzzle masterpiece that I am disappointed I not only didn't experience sooner but not many more people have played. It stands as a hidden gem that I truly believe anyone — even those who don't love puzzle games — will find something to love about.
Ugly (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
Follow a hideous and tormented nobleman through a slew of very creative and inventive puzzle levels that, quite frankly, everyone should try — Ugly is a hidden masterpiece that I'm confident many will find something to love in.