Going Under Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Internships are heck - especially unpaid ones. In Aggro Crab Games' debut release Going Under, you'll find this out for yourself as you take on the role of Jackie Fiasco, an enthusiastic marketing intern whose excitement for her internship at Fizzle - a carbonated drink start-up - quickly evaporates. Roped into exploring the procedurally-generated dungeons housing bankrupt start-ups Joblin, Styxcoin and Winkydink below Fizzle's offices, and made responsible for defeating the various monsters found within, Jackie soon finds herself with the weight of saving not only her company but also the world on her shoulders. A somewhat satirical adventure, Going Under captures our growing world in all its glory, and through its humour, pokes fun at societal concerns like work crunch, managers' dedication to productivity and statistics, and dependence on technology.
The basics of combat and Jackie's mentors are introduced right away, flinging you into her new role with no room for complaint. Almost all of the office-based items you find flung around the dungeons can be used as weapons - including pencils, pens, brooms, keyboards, potted cacti, packs of paper and desk chairs - and this makes combat both spontaneous and hilarious, as you must switch up your weapon inventory on the fly and use anything you can lay your hands on in a pinch. Each weapon has its pros and cons, boasts varying damage, and has a durability threshold, making combat as much about your strategy as your competency with each weapon.
You have two types of attack - light and heavy - and can dodge out of the way using X if in a pinch. Apps and special items are used with Circle, and to use consumables or pick up new weapons, you press Triangle. Common weapons such as pencils are fast and compact, but their damage and durability are poor. As such, to increase your odds of survival and make the biggest dents in your enemies' health bars, you'll need to open as many Cubicle (think Amazon; a huge shipping and distribution company with global reach and influence, and a slightly creepy level of knowledge about your purchasing habits, wants and needs) crates and visit as many shops as possible to try to find elusive premium weapons like tridents, swords and axes. These weapons often have additional status effects to inflict upon enemies, and can make taking down tougher foes a breeze.
Ray, Swomp, Kara, Tappi and Fern each have tasks for you to do, the completion of which grants you unique perks when each is assigned as your mentor. For instance, two of Swomp's perks are his "Swomp Cubes" and his monstrous friends who accompany you on each dungeon floor, while Fern spawns Fizzle cans and dedicated Fizzle vending machines for your use. Perhaps surprisingly, phone apps are available in dungeons regardless of whether Kara is assigned as your mentor or not, with MobFlash and SelfCare proving the most useful to stall enemies and recover from damage in my experience. Testing each mentor out and switching them up to suit the dungeon and any tasks in progress is recommended, as each offers significant advantages when tackling the different sections of the game.
The right mentor, combined with the right skills, makes combat much more dynamic and fluid, and can be the difference between victory and defeat. Over 50 skills can be purchased with Cubits from Fizzle, after which they can randomly be found in skill rooms in dungeons. Using a skill in a dungeon increases its endorsement level, with a maxed-out endorsement level meaning you can make it your pinned skill to begin a dungeon with. Some particularly useful skills that I frequently pinned included "Go-Getter" (increases your movement and attack speeds), "YEET" (allows you to throw items further), "Blood Money" (exchanges half-hearts for items instead of cash) and "Fail-Forward" (revives you with one heart if you die, but only once), but with so many to choose from, it's down to you to find those that work best for your playstyle.
While Going Under's campaign is relatively short, and with little incentive to keep playing post-game except completionism (at least for now - new content is planned, according to Aggro Crab), the overall experience offered by the game is made truly worthwhile by its bright, stylised visuals and funky soundtrack. The appearances of each enemy and weapon are unique, status effects are blatant when applied, and the environments are colourful, vibrant and engaging to traverse through. In each dungeon there are a variety of rooms to visit, and from the shops to the skill rooms, to the Hauntrepreneur's lairs and beyond, you'll never come across the same exact layout twice. With each subsequent run through the dungeons, their soundtracks become more and more embedded in your mind, too, to the point where - at least for me - you can play them on eternal loop. Perhaps the worst track for this is the final boss fight, and somewhat ironically, you'll not get "we programmed your brain" out of your brain in a hurry.
Sadly, Going Under at this time is significantly let down by its various performance issues, bugs and glitches. Throughout my playthrough, I encountered numerous frame rate drops, stutters, and collision issues, making combat incredibly difficult at times and making it virtually impossible to smoothly pick up apps, weapons and other resources around the dungeons. One notable glitch when passing through a doorway saw me ejected from the playable area entirely, forcing me to watch from a distance as my Joblin friends were slaughtered, and could only be rectified by restarting the game entirely. Some in-game tasks and external trophies/achievements are also bugged currently, either unlocking too early or not at all; so if trying to 100% the game, you'll need to either look online for workarounds or wait for the incoming patch that Aggro Crab are working on.
The performance issues are substantial, and did lead to considerable frustration throughout my playthrough, but the gameplay itself and the thrill of the combat was more than enough to keep my attention despite them all. Aggro Crab's commitment to resolving as many issues as they can is admirable, and having seen their dedicated Discord server channel for bug reports myself and their regular logging of reported issues and their incoming resolutions, I am confident that the game will soon be in much better shape, and with much more content to offer its players to boot.
If you're into dungeon crawlers, challenging combat and/or satirical gaming experiences, then Going Under is without a doubt for you. It is a fantastic debut by Aggro Crab, and with fixes for its performance issues and bugs coming - as well as a variety of post-release content planned - it will soon be even bigger and better than ever. You can find the game on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch now for the modest price of £15.99, and if you really needed one more reason to give it a try - yes, you can pet Kara's dog Eclaire.