Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
[Review code provided by Team17]
Going Under is the debut game from Aggro Crab Games – a fantastical take on the weird world of tech start-ups and ever-changing technology. In this satirical dungeon crawler, you play as Jackie Fiasco – an unpaid intern in the dystopian city of Neo-Cascadia. The dungeons you crawl are the remains of failed start-ups, and office supplies are your weapons.
As of writing, Going Under recently released the free “Working from Home” content update, adding new skills and the more challenging Impostor Mode. It’s a nice chunk of extra gameplay, and it compliments the core game nicely.
The writing in Going Under is one of its strong points. It’s a game full of sharp puns and satire that lovingly prod at everything from cryptocurrency to dating apps. The game features a cast of (literally) colourful characters, each with their own quirks and hang-ups. Helping them out through in-game tasks lets you learn more about them, while adding unique perks to your arsenal.
Going Under‘s aesthetic gets top marks, too. The game’s palette is bold and vibrant, and the character and monster designs are great. It really is a treat to look at. The original soundtrack is catchy (enough that I bought it), and there’s some stand-out sound design, too.
All of this comes together to create a very cohesive world and identity. Exploring the Going Underworld is always exciting, and often amusing.
Jackie’s adventures take the form of an action roguelike. In many ways, you could compare it to the original Legend of Zelda, or games like The Binding of Isaac. Players explore procedurally generated dungeons, with the layout of each floor changing every time you play. Although the game only has three ‘core’ dungeons, there’s an impressive amount of variety.
As players explore, they must use whatever weapons they can grab hold of to fight off the company’s former employees. Weapons break over time and must be constantly replaced. Along the way, you’ll also gather money to spend and skills that adjust Jackie’s abilities. Grab Upper Body Strength and you can swing heavy weapons with ease, or grab Yeet! to throw weapons more effectively. By taking on the Hauntrepeneur’s curses, you can gain rewards in exchange for temporary debuffs.
Going Under does have some issues, though. These become particularly apparent in the latter half of the game, where the difficulty spikes a bit. At this point, enemies with gimmicks become more common and everything takes longer to kill. Meanwhile, your offensive options don’t really improve that much.
Compounding the problem is that combat in Going Under can get very hectic, especially when explosives are involved. There’s a lot of visual clutter, and it becomes hard to parse where you are and what’s going on around you.
Unfortunately, rolling out of a tight spot isn’t always viable, because the dodge-roll isn’t very good. The period of invincibility is brief, and the distance it covers is short – often too short to avoid bigger attacks. There’s not much post hit invincibility, either – it’s easy to get cornered and chipped to pieces in a few seconds. Dodging one attack often leads to getting hit by another.
Needless to say, all of this could become a bit frustrating. However, at it’s core, the combat is a lot of fun. Improvising with your weapons and adapting to each room is exciting, and when it all comes together, finishing a good run feels satisfying.
As well as this, the game includes the option to turn on ‘assists’ – more health, weaker enemies, better dodge rolls (although they’re still not great) and so on – so that you can adjust the game to a more comfortable level for you. This is the sort of accessibility option that I think we need more of – long gone are the days of ‘easy-mode mockery‘.
Overall, Going Under is a great debut for Aggro Crab Games. While it isn’t a perfect game, there’s a lot of quality on show. It’s a tired cliché, but it’s obvious that the team behind Going Under put a lot of heart into their work.
If you enjoy action roguelikes as much as I do, then you’d be doing yourself a favour by checking this one out. You can easily get a solid 20 hours of fun out of it, if not more. Going Under definitely gives you the ‘one more run’ itch.
In any case, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what Aggro Crab Games do next.
Going Under leaves a strong impression. While the combat has it’s flaws, the game is overall a lot of fun and easily worth checking out. If things seem a bit daunting, then using the built-in assistance can help tip the odds in your favour. An impressive debut for Aggro Crab Games!