Ugly Nintendo Switch Review

Ugly weaves a melancholy story between top-notch puzzle platforming.

By MChipmunks, Posted 23 Sep 2023

Ah, the puzzle platformer. The genre has had its fair share of quality games over the years. You may remember key puzzle platformers such as Braid, Limbo, and most recently, the ever-adorable but frightening, Planet of Lana. This is only scratching the surface of standout titles of the genre. Most puzzle platformers share common traits, such as jaw-dropping visuals, interesting mechanics, and mind-bending levels. Indie developers have gone from zero to hero, developing games in this genre. Ugly is no exception.

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Ugly has an interesting development history—a tale of overcoming hurdles to make a team’s dream a reality. Ugly was published by Graffiti Games and developed by Team Ugly. Team Ugly comprises a small but mighty group of individuals with varying degrees of experience. Team Ugly was formed in January 2020 and is based in Barcelona, Spain. With only four members at the helm, Ugly is an impressive feat for the Spain-based gaming startup. According to Co-Founder Rita Fortuny, Ugly was born from napkin drawings by team member Gerard Singuerlin.

Gerard’s initial pitch was not enough to sway the mind of a programmer he sold the initial pitch to. After much toil, Gerard was able to find a new programmer to start the development of Ugly with. Along the way, trouble reared its “ugly” head when this programmer decided to leave the project. Many obstacles and hoops later, Team Ugly was able to complete Ugly and secure publisher, Graffiti Games, to take care of the rest. Thus, Ugly was born into the world. The battle might have been won, but what about the war? How was the final execution of Team Ugly’s aptly named title?

Ugly tells the tale of a nobleman struggling to confront his past demons that plague him. The story is told through crude children’s chalk drawings and paints a bleak picture of the nobleman’s life. Not a single line of dialogue is uttered in Ugly. It is far more impressive when a story can be told through expression without dialogue. Planet of Lana was able to successfully execute something similar when it launched earlier this year. The story does not progress linearly, but that will be explained in a moment. On the surface, Ugly doesn’t look like your standard mature-rated title. Once you unravel the events of the nobleman’s life, you see what a tragic character he is. So much is told with so little. This goes a long way for Ugly’s story.

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Ugly offers a gaming experience that is equally fair and challenging. As you progress throughout Ugly, you will be introduced to new elements to get the brain juices flowing. Hope you enjoy physics because many puzzles will make sure you have an understanding real quickly. The nobleman possesses a crystal, which allows him to split himself and his reflection apart, allowing you to swap seamlessly between yourself and your reflection to complete puzzles. Each area expertly introduces new mechanics to the player without muttering a single word. The only tutorial you play through is at the beginning of the adventure.

Even when toggling hints on, Ugly will not hold your hand outside of telling you where to place the crystal. The difficulty is only as hard as what your brain is able to process, so keep those critical thinking skills sharp! As you progress further into the game, the nature of the puzzles will change drastically. You will tackle puzzles at the beginning of Ugly that may not be as thought-provoking. For instance, much of the earlier puzzles might require you to perform a simple action just for swapping to the other side of the level, where only the nobleman or his reflection may be able to access. The nobleman’s reflection can walk through walls, whereas the nobleman can not.

What is really neat is the fact that the reflection is not bound by the laws of gravity. Placing the crystal in a horizontal position allows you and your reflection to appear on the left and right sides of the screen, respectively. There will be ladders that are much too high for the nobleman to reach. Since the reflection can suspend in midair, it can climb the ladder, and then all you have to do is swap places with your reflection on the fly, making the nobleman appear in its place. It feels so much more rewarding with the notion that you have to figure these puzzles out with barely an explanation. You must rely on your own intellect to successfully come up with a solution to the puzzles that await you.

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To complete a level, you must make your way to that level's key. Each key you collect will unlock any doors with a standard gray lock. When you complete the last level of a given area, you will obtain a golden key with a corresponding color for big doors. There is a central hub area which houses the color-coded doors. When attempting to leave levels with the golden key, you will be stopped by a boss encounter. Boss battles are where Ugly truly shines. The term “boss battle” is used loosely here, however, that doesn’t mean they aren't a spectacle. Boss battles are over in mere moments if you can figure out how to navigate each one’s various skill set. The nobleman doesn’t possess any combat skills, instead relying on his crystal to thwart each boss encounter.

The artistic direction for Ugly is a feast for the eyes in the most disturbing yet pleasant way possible. Each boss is animated in immaculate detail, reminding me of games like Cuphead, with the grandeur of its boss encounters. The boss encounters have the right amount of difficulty too. As aforementioned, they can be dealt with in a matter of moments with some trial and error. My only gripe with this area of the game is I wish they were slightly longer! There is only so much you can do, given this is a puzzle game, first and foremost. There are no penalties or lives lost when a boss grabs you. Instead, the nobleman pulls out what is presumably alcohol or poison to knock himself out, where you can have another go at it.

This also applies to regular puzzles. The more complex the puzzle becomes, the more you may have to utilize a re-do. In most instances, you may not be able to recover if you fall too far down in certain levels. In this case, the re-do feature really comes in handy. My favorite puzzles were ones where you would place the crystal horizontally in a high enough spot, allowing you to continually fall and swap to the reflection. If you time it just right, you can infinitely make the nobleman reach new heights. Ugly never became boring, either. The main story can last about five to seven hours, depending on if you acquired all the secret memories and movies. Doing so will unlock an alternate ending.

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Speaking of movies, these are particularly creepy in an already disturbing experience. I will not go into detail here, so you will have to see for yourself. Ugly is a beauty that lingers in the mind, even as it disturbs. As you delve deeper into the morbid madness that awaits, you can’t help but stop and appreciate the gorgeous art direction. The bosses are a clear highlight, but every nook and cranny of Ugly is incredibly nuanced. The initial concepts were brought to light in every morose detail. Ugly has certainly earned a spot in the annals of art direction in gaming. This is a major triumph for the team at Team Ugly.

There was a major issue towards the end of my playthrough, which actually prevented me from completing the game, which is unfortunate as this bug occurs in the last few minutes of the game. This problem has not been addressed for other platforms as of this writing and seems to be a Nintendo Switch exclusive issue. Until a patch comes out to fix this issue, the current score will remain. Ugly is an otherwise solid debut for Team Ugly. Ugly hearkens back to the quality releases seen during the Xbox 360 era through the Xbox Live Arcade library (usually seen as XBLA). At $19.99, Ugly is easily worth the price of admission.

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With five to seven hours worth of gameplay, two endings, a gorgeous art direction, and plenty of brain-busting puzzles to satisfy those craving a challenge, you are easily getting your money’s worth with Ugly. Ugly is a tale of triumph for the small team at Team Ugly and is an inspiration to current or future indie game developers everywhere. Ugly looks to be a modern cult classic that will have a small but passionate fan base. If or when Team Ugly decides to patch the Nintendo Switch version to fix this huge bug, the score will change to reflect that. Only time will tell for now. It is a must-play but hold out for that update so that you can actually see the game through to the end.

Michael Nicolosi (@ChipmunksMikey)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, XBSX, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Graffiti Games
Developer(s): Team Ugly
Genres: Puzzle Platformer
Themes: 2D
Release Date: 2023-09-14

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