I received quite a few bits of review code in the tail end of 2020 that I didn’t quite get around to posting reviews for, and Going Under was part of that unhappy bunch. But I’ve been dipping in and out of the game over the past few months, and it’s pretty good fun – if a little scrappy and frustrating.
The set up is that you play a new unpaid intern arriving for work at some ultra-hip corporation, only to be told that your main role will be to clear out the offices in the basement, which have become overrun with goblins and demons. The best bit of the game by far is the interactions you have with your fellow workers: the snappy satire of corporation culture is spot on, with misguided trendy CEOs making absurd pronouncements and leaving it to their lackeys to sort out the details, while put-upon PRs tear their hair out at the mess they’re left with. Meanwhile the head of IT pours hot scorn over everything and anything that comes their way, and product development moans constantly about how their vision is being diluted by corporate interference.
Still, the meat of the game is dungeon-crawling, and the four main basement offices you have to cleanse are based around different failed start-ups: for example, Winkydink is a Tinder-like dating app whose offices are now overrun with Cupid-like demons, while Styxcoin is a cryptocurrency firm infested with miners gone berserk. They’re all beautifully designed, with a wonderfully distinctive art style and some excellent use of eye-popping colour.
The aim is to fight to the bottom level of the four dungeons to defeat the boss that lurks in each, but this is far from a simple task. It took me dozens of attempts to get to the boss of the first dungeon – Joblin – and I’ve still yet to reach the end of any of the others. Each time you die you’re sent right back to the start, and the dungeon layout and the enemies within change on every fresh attempt. And seeing as you begin with only three hearts on your life bar, even getting through the first few rooms can be a challenge.
But you earn cash for defeating enemies, and you can use this to gradually earn enough to buy new skills, which will randomly appear as pick ups on each level. Plus you can choose one of the staff members to act as a mentor, and if you complete tasks for them – like defeating certain numbers of enemies in certain ways – they’ll provide perks, like a packed lunch full of healing food. So things do get a little bit easier with repeated runthroughs, but Going Under is still a tough old game, even with added help.
I’m fond of the way that almost anything in a level can be used as a weapon, from body pillows to minifridges to staplers. But each item can only be used for a few hits before it breaks, so the emphasis is on constantly picking up new things with which to bludgeon the baddies. It’s a fun idea, and leads to constant scrambles to source new implements of destruction, but I also found the fights incredibly frustrating. Each room is packed with random STUFF along with several enemies, so often it’s hard to see what’s going on, especially with the vibrant, busy art style. Fights quickly descend into scrappy button mashing, and it’s all too easy to do things like whack an explosive crate, causing you to accidentally set yourself on fire – a disaster considering that you have such a small amount of health to begin with.
Your character also moves particularly slowly, so the dodge button is essential. Yet the environments are so busy and the camera so tightly focused that often there isn’t anywhere to dodge, and you frequently end up rolling into further danger. All together I found the fighting frustratingly imprecise and annoyingly difficult – just one or two mistakes can see you sent right back to the beginning.
In the end, the frustration was enough to make me give up on Going Under long before the end, which is a shame, because its humour and style are superb. With a few tweaks to the combat and controls this could be truly amazing, but currently it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Going Under was developed by Aggro Crab and published by Team17, and it’s available on PC, Switch, Xbox One and PS4. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Going Under was provided by Team17. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.