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Ugly Review: Beautiful In Every Way

  • The mirror mechanic
  • Hauntingly beautiful graphics
  • Challenging yet balanced
  • Story depicts trauma that could be triggering

A PC code for "Ugly" was provided to SVG for this review. The game is available now on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Puzzle games come in a variety of forms, which is one of the things that make them so appealing. However, some of the best puzzles are the ones that keep you hooked out of spite to solve it. It fuels you as you retrace your steps over and over again, trying to find the smallest clue you might have missed; that one thing that will unlock the whole puzzle, making you feel silly that you struggled in the first place.


"Ugly" is a puzzle platformer that keeps you on your toes as you work your way through rooms to find keys. Like a Russian Nesting Doll, this game has rooms within rooms, within more rooms, which leads to some amazing obstacles. Not only are you trying to get from point A to point B, but there are multiple things to unlock in the rooms.

The whirlwind this game puts you through, merged with the exciting, yet strange graphics, will have you obsessed with this masterpiece of a game and understanding why it deserves to be ranked among the best of 2023

The right kind of challenging

There is a warning at the start of "Ugly" that advises players to take breaks and enter rooms calmly, which probably won't register until after you start playing. This game is the perfect creation for avid puzzle enthusiasts. Not only because the puzzles are difficult, but because it finds the sweet spot in how to elevate them as you progress.


It also finds a great blend between pushing you to your breaking point, while at the same time providing just enough layups that you don't rage quit. An example of this would be the variety of rooms you work to unlock.

The main concept of this game is you are a noble working your way through different rooms in your home, which also helps unlock a variety of nightmarish memories and movies. Your only tool is a mirror shard, which allows you to create a reflection that helps you get into areas you wouldn't be able to reach by yourself.

This idea is a doozy on its own because it will challenge your normal perception of directions and force you to think steps ahead. On top of that, there are certain rooms that have hidden areas to place the shard or challenges you to find a way to place mirror you and your real self in certain positions. Even when you think you are starting to get the hang of it, here comes a new room to make you rethink everything.


Don't get too comfortable

One of the cool things about "Ugly" is the fact that as you enter new sections of the home, you are introduced to a new challenge. These challenges tend to be the reason that everything you once knew changes. For example, in the third level, you come across crystals that impact the movement of your reflection. This new feature tends to slowly progress as you unlock more rooms in that area.


It isn't just the collection of rooms that work well together, but also the bosses that come after. Once all those doors are unlocked in that particular region, you can expect an epic fight or chase waiting for you. You also can always expect that boss to have something to do with whatever the current challenge was you faced.

For example, in the second boss fight you are running from a pink blob, which connects to the fact that your reflection cannot show up in pink areas. Compare this to the third boss which is sending crystal pillars that mirror you has to work around, while real you also has their own obstacles to jump over. The only way to win is having both sides of you reach the finish line. 


There is an artistic element and even just overall feeling around "Ugly" that feels very similar to certain attributes that made "Cuphead" so popular, especially when it comes to the bosses

A haunting tale

There is a lot to like about this game, but one of the major key points is the layering of graphics to feed the narrative. No matter if its big or small, all the elements add up to leave the player feeling lost in a haunted house that is filled with shattered memories of their past — pieces that you are only going to put together by pushing yourself even further into this hellscape.


Take, for example, the childlike drawings that depict such horrid events or the slightly doomed movies that you can uncover. These extra elements add to the dread that makes this game so wonderfully haunting by adding little to no context around them. Plus, they don't always depict something scary, they are just perfectly placed enough to send shivers down your spine.

This even goes to background items you can interact with as you walk past them. Cute paintings flutter down to reveal ruined family portraits, green gas rises up as you fall into a pit, and a whole room looks like pieces of shattered glass; all of these things combine to create a dark fairytale that could keep you up at night. Which is why it works so well that these graphics have an enchanting cartoonish look to them. 


There is so much that goes into "Ugly" that just invites you in, willing you to get lost for hours. And even then, chances are you probably won't find everything. This game thrives at all levels to create a hidden gem for players, which is why it received a perfect score.