Underneath my yellow skin

Going Under: a send-up of start-ups that is satisfying

About a month ago, I tried the demo for Going Under by Aggro Crab in a desperate attempt to find a game to tide me over until Elden Ring–FromSoft, of course. At that time, I didn’t know I was filling the time until Elden Ring (ER from now on) came out because it was before the Summer Games Fest, but I wanted something new to sink my teeth into so I decided to dive into my Pile of Shame and see if there was anything I wanted to play. Or rather, I installed a bunch of demos and tried out a bunch of games. Going Under was one of them and I wrote a brief write-up of it here. Then, Ian offered it to me out of his Humble Bundle and I accepted because it had something to it and why not? It’s a roguelike-lite that has that one more run feel to it. RNG both giveth and it taketh away as well.

The premise is that you are Jacqueline Fiasco, an intern at Fizzle Beverages.  You think you’re going to be learn about marketing and such, but you are so very wrong. When you meet Marv, the Project Manager (PM), he’s full of empty slogans and toxic enthusiasm. Not that enthusiasm in and of itself is toxic, but when it’s used to cover terrible and inhumane business practices, that’s when it becomes toxic. He immediately nicknames you Jackie and then tells you that you have to go kill goblins. He wraps it up in verbiage, but that’s the bottom line.

I have to say that they got the environment perfectly. Or rather, they were able to evoke the feeling of a start-up perfectly. There’s a giant tunnel slide that you can take to get from the second floor down to the first. There’s a cafe with a man named Swomp (yes, Swomp and not Swamp) who seems like a sleaze at first, but then turns out to be a pretty decent guy. There’s Tippi, the financial officer, who is trying to rein in the CEO while the company is hemorrhaging money. There’s Kara, the computer gal who hates computers. She has an adorable doxie, Eclaire, who is more than just a cute face. There’s a side mission of taking her for a walk through the dungeons (reaching the third floor of any dungeon) which means she’s tethered to your waist and slows you down dramatically as you fight with the Joblins.

Quick note: I really enjoy the biting satire of the game. In addition to the names of the dungeons–which, by the way, are other companies. So Fizzle Beverage is literally built on the grounds of other companies–the whole tone of the game is spot-on as a spoof with bite. I had said in my original quick review that the combat felt off to me. Part of the issue was that the framerate was locked at 30 fps (why is any game locked on the PC???) and once I changed that to 60, the game felt better.

Another quick note: One thing that is frustrating in this game as well as in Cozy Grove (Spry Fox) is how difficult it is to target an item to pick up (Going Under) or harvest (Cozy Grove). In the latter, I have something like a hundred pots of flowers all next to each other plus birds and deer capering around. Having to repeatedly move my character one pixel and try to harvest the plant I want is not my idea of fun. Neither is running around a dungeon in the former and trying to grab the weapon I want and ending up with a box.

I like chatting with the other employees in between each run and finding out more about them. Such as Kara can’t get a date (with either a guy or a woman) to save her life. Tippi still isn’t over her ex-girlfriend; I can’t help but think about hooking the two of them up. Fern is the flavor master and also co-founder of Fizzle. Randy is the CEO who talks like he’s a mixture of a cut-rate Dalai Lama and Steve Job. The jargon thrown around this office is mind-numbing and filled with meaningless buzzwords and to be honest, I pretty much tune it out.

I will have to say that this game is labeled Souls-like on Steam, which is hilarious. Not everything that is difficult is like Dark Souls! Ian said he could see it a bit because there is a dodge roll and combat. I added that you had to plan your combat and not just flail around. Now having made it to and almost through the third dungeon (died on the boss, who, by the way, I do not like as a concept although he’s an apt stereotype), I can confidently say that the game is not like Souls and not difficult–another tag applied to it. At least not so far. I will say that the third dungeon did ramp up in difficulty quite a bit over the second one–by the way, you slide down a giant slide to get to the dungeons.

The descriptions of the items are on brand as well. Avocado on toast is something you can buy in the shop and fills a heart and a half. The description is something like ‘it replaces home ownership’, which is just *chef’s kiss*. I really think they nailed the satire in an in-your-face sort of way.

There are skills that you can acquire, too, and the more you use them, the more proficiency you have in them. You get to start with one and I have to say while there are many good ones, why would I choose anything other than the one that brings me back to life with one heart? I do choose other skills to start with when I’m doing specific side quests such as the punching fists when I needed to kill ten enemies with using only bare hands. I also used that one when I needed to finish a floor without rolling.

I have to say that the dungeons themselves aren’t that difficult, but I don’t think I’ve seen everything combat-wise that the game has to offer. I know from looking up something else that there are three dungeons, but there are so many other things that need to be leveled up that the game can’t possibly be over once you beat them all. Each of the other employers can be your mentor and offer a special perk when you equip them. Swomp, for example, at level one will steal you one item per shop and at level two leaves Swomp Cubes filled with trash items for you to find.

It’s quite clever how they use the narrative to influence the game. Swomp has the idea to start his own line of boxes–see, Cubicle (company) just bought out Fizzle. They are about boxes filled with things and when you break the boxes, you get useful items. Swomp comes up with the idea to fill boxes with his old stuff he no longer wants and sell them. It’s a neat idea, really.

There are also apps that let you do something unique like Mob Flashes sets off a camera that stuns the enemy for a second, allowing you to get in free hits. They’re a lot of fun, but you can only hold one of them at a time. If you have Kara as your mentor, you can have two, but the way to use them is not optimal. When you pick up the second app, it pushes the first one in the hold position and if you pick up yet another, the current one gets pushed in the hold position and the held app gets destroyed? I think? I have not gotten to that point, but that’s what the Wiki tells me. I get that they want you to use the apps freely, but I would prefer being able to use them as my leisure. I really don’t like that you can’t order the apps the way you want them. In addition, if you leave the room and come back, the app turns into a bricked phone. Which, funny, but not useful.

There’s a home pod, too, where you can go to listen to music and change your outfits. So far, I have intern, contractor, and skeleton miner. There doesn’t seem to be anything else you can do, but it’s still early days. The game is loads of fun and it definitely has that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. I’m glad I gave it a whirl.

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