Going Under (Switch) Review
I haven’t giggled to myself as much in quite a while as I have with new roguelike Going Under. Corporate satire is often a tricky nail to hit – The Outer Worlds recently touched on it, with dark gags like workers refusing urgent medical help from a competing brand. Going Under hits the nail right on the head though: you play as beverage startup Fizzle’s unpaid intern Jacqueline, forced to collect some ancient artifacts from three failed companies that have gone under – as in, become subterranean dungeons, with employees turned into thematically appropriate monsters. There’s a vibrant and hilariously written cast to return to after every death (or victory) in one such dungeon, from entrepreneur bro Ray to angry lead programmer Kara. Everything is presented with the misshapen proportions and flat, bright colours of the very best of corporate art – done to death on the internet but unique in a video game. Yes, it’s very Extremely Online humour – think other millennial-developed indie games like Donut County – but it’s all very charming and I found especially the dialogue to be fantastic. It even extends to the dungeons, a highlight being the Winkydink dating app dungeon swarmed with eggplants hanging from the ceiling, equippable as a weapon titled ‘Low Hanging Fruit’.
Which brings me to the dungeons. They’re great. They’re procedurally generated from a selection of rooms each time, so eventually you’ll see layouts you recognise, but in general each run will be a little different. What gives it the most variety is your weaponry – every weapon in the game will break, or run out of ammo, forcing you to constantly adapt and never get too attached. You’ve always got options: you can collect whatever your fallen foes were holding, order a delivery drone, or just pick up random objects around the room. Nearly everything is equippable, so you can fight with a pot plant if you absolutely need to. This weapons system keeps combat dynamic, interesting and exciting, without ever letting you feel too comfortable. It also makes getting a great weapon feel godly, even if you’re aware it’ll only be temporary. Also on the table are Apps – essentially magic abilities. Apps will let you summon a friendly helper, or stun the enemies in the room, or give you a quick heal. They’re essential to success, and exactly like the weapons: random and perishable, with usually only one able to be equipped at a time.
Core gameplay is exactly what you’d expect, running through a series of floors to reach the end of each dungeon, with each new location a little more difficult than the last. With only three locations, it’s good that some additional gameplay hooks have been included. Each member of the team at Fizzle will give you missions to complete – maybe collect a special item, or escort their dog through some dungeons, or set a lot of things on fire. These will unlock and upgrade them as your Mentor, letting you select them before a dungeon to provide certain buffs and abilities. It also has the effect of progressing their individual storylines, letting you get to know them a little more and adding a little extra heart to the charm of the writing. There’s also skills to collect and upgrade as you complete dungeons, from basics like Go-Getter simply increasing your movement speed to my favourite Large and In Charge, making every weapon double in size, to somewhat questionable inclusions like Yeet!. Which, yes, makes your throws faster and more powerful, and includes a soundbite that you might occasionally wish didn’t play.
Despite these gameplay hooks though, it doesn’t change the core: there are only three locations. It’s great to have extra tasks to do to keep things fresh but there are no rotating bosses, or especially unique events in each run. Once you’ve completed each level a few times it starts to feel a little repetitive, and it’s not difficult to reach that point – for the nervous among us, there are plenty of great accessibility options to make your dungeon crawling a little easier, but to be honest I found the default difficulty fairly straightforward as-is. It only took three or four runs for me to complete the first area, and I would ordinarily characterise myself as ‘very bad at roguelikes’ – it took me about ten times as many attempts to clear the first floor in Enter the Gungeon, for example. With the lack of variety and lower difficulty in Going Under, I can’t see this being popular among the same perfectionist speedrunning crowd, although I’d love to be proven wrong.
Going Under has some great synergy, but don’t expect any sort of hostile takeover of your life. It lacks scope and variety compared to time-devouring classics like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, and certainly doesn’t come close to the challenge of either of those two games. As an accessible, friendly, funny take on the genre though, it scores some big points, and is generally a blast and a half. You should give this one a spin.
+ On-target corporate satire
+ Satisfying combat
+ Lovely art design
- Not much content
- Easy (for a roguelike)
- Lacks the variety for endless replays