Ugly Review – The Truth is Ugly

Ugly uses stimulating puzzles and gigantic boss fights to tell the story of one poor prince's ugly truth.
Ugly Featured

Ugly is a 2D-platforming adventure game published by Graffiti Games, the same publisher behind The Adventures of Chris and Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. In Ugly, you’ll use an interesting and innovative mirror mechanic to solve various platforming puzzles, slowly unlocking both the secret rooms of a derelict manor and your repressed memories as you progress. This dark little tale is as much about trauma, unhealthy coping mechanisms and the nature between parent and child as it is about challenging your spatial awareness and puzzle-solving skills.

Ugly Theather
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Ugly begins as an alcoholic, big-nosed little creature awakes in his cramped little bed. The game quickly paints a scene of a lonely downtrodden man with substance abuse issues, made more apparent as we transition from his tired little hobble into an opulent yet run-down palace. The game’s ability to tell a story simply through visuals is incredible, with not an ounce of dialogue outside of the musical score. Potent scenes of squalor and sadness are expressed through the backdrop of this lonely man’s ruined manse, and you quickly get an idea of how it came to be this way.

With the aid of a magical mirror, you begin to explore the once-grand palace and quickly understand the source of our protagonist’s woes. Our protagonist, the prince, was born to a wealthy king or nobleman with a high opinion of himself. The man’s ego is quite literally plastered on the wall, with a thousand paintings and statues of the man hanging around the palace which have since been defaced. It becomes clear that our protagonist, who was born ugly or at least not up to the standards of his appearance-obsessed father, was the nobleman’s greatest shame, and the prince became the target of his misplaced anger.

Memories of the Prince’s abusive childhood are shared through secret little interactable points throughout the map. Finding these areas gives you a fittingly gruesome crayon drawing depicting a point in the Prince’s life that he clearly would rather not remember. Each secret memory is an achievement, so to 100% this game, you’ll have to find and view every piece of lore and force the little Prince to remember everything.

Ugly Memory
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The game’s musical score, besides being grim and somber but sweet to listen to soundtrack, also serves a point in progressing the narrative. The difference between soft melodies and violent audio cues really serves to drive home the tone of scenes. The occasional lyrics sing little information hinting at the Prince’s past, specifically when images of his mother come on screen.

All of this exploration of both the manor and the turbulent memories trapped within are done through the game’s interesting platforming mechanic. Introduced right off the bat is a magical mirror, a shard of glass that you can summon to your location at any time. Doing so creates a mirrored copy of the Prince, which follows your exact position at the opposite end of the mirror. The mirrored prince can travel on the X or Y axis depending on how you place the mirror.

Your reflection mirrors your movements but can pass through solid objects. Reflecting your exact location, it can’t move on its own or physically interact with objects. You can swap to your reflection at any time, so long as it isn’t standing over pink paint. This is the mechanic that the game’s puzzles are based around, and it leads to some interesting logical experiments that can get pretty complicated down the line.

Overall, I’d say you shouldn’t struggle too hard with these puzzles, though I did find myself completely stumped at a few areas. There are optional hints that can be toggled in the game’s menu. Unfortunately, I found these hints to not be very helpful in the areas I was struggling. If I could ask for one thing to be added to the game, it would be a more decisively useful hint section so that I could spend less time on the areas where I really didn’t know how to progress.

Ugly Chapel
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Each area of the house contains several rooms full of their own puzzles. Unlocking each room requires finishing the one before it and collecting the key. Each area is themed, and reflects a different time or person in the Prince’s life.

More than just platforming puzzles, the game challenges you with gigantic boss fights. These battles require you to use your puzzle platforming skills in a more aggressive way, forcing you to think unconventionally with the mechanics you were taught. Like anywhere else in the game, if you end up stuck or in trouble you can go back to the start of the encounter by chugging a bottle of booze (or cough medicine?) so they never feel particularly punishing or time consuming.

Ugly Bandaged Man
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Ugly is a work of art. Beyond the beautifully drawn world of this grim fairy tale, the game is a story of self-reflection and trauma. The real ugliness is the truth that you reveal on your journey through this dilapidated mansion, with a story that’s told beautifully through unconventional means. The game encourages you to take your time, relax, and take a deep breath while you go about the puzzles at your own pace. However, if you’re like me you’ll feel rushed to find out more and more of the poor little Prince’s sad little life.

The Final Word

Ugly is a fun and interesting puzzle platformer that tells a dark story in an unconventional and engaging way. This tale of macabre memories shouldn’t take you too long to complete, and will challenge you with stimulating mirror-movement puzzles throughout. It is safe to say that Ugly more than lives up to 2023’s standard of excellent game releases.

9

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Ugly is available on Steam and Xbox.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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