Going Under Review

Unpaid internship.

Being an employee for a startup company can be stressful. Long hours for relatively little pay, eyes straining at monitors whilst wrists ache from using a keyboard all day, and bosses who want to circle back so you can interface about how we’re going to actualise our deliverables. Sometimes these companies pop-up out of nowhere and get bought by even bigger companies, then fall apart as they crack under the pressure of increased finances and poor management. These failed companies are cursed to sink beneath the surface of the city whilst their employees wander the hallways for eternity as monsters. Well, they do in Going Under.

This satirical roguelite is set in the office of Fizzle, a fizzy drinks company where you control Jacqueline, the new intern. Fizzle is expanding pretty quickly after being bought out by Cubicle, a drone delivery service, and supposedly hired Jacqueline to work as an unpaid marketing intern. However, much to her surprise, it seems Fizzle really just needed someone to fight the fantasy monsters that keep finding their way into the office, and her first day on the job consists of heading over to Joblins LLC and battling all the former employees that have quite unfortunately turned into goblins.

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Fighting your way through the three differently-themed defunct companies that make up the dungeons is most comparable to the Binding of Isaac. You enter a room and defeat the enemies, hoover up any cash they dropped, then pick up anything worth picking up in the room and move onto the next. Rinse and repeat until you can access the slide down to the next floor.

Enemies all behave differently, with some Joblins keeping their distance for a few seconds after you enter before coming in to attack, while others drive tiny cars and try to run you over, and another looks just like Jimi Hendrix and plays the guitar at you. Most rooms have a mix of enemies and require not just skill, but thought to take advantage of monster behaviour to get through them. Enemies are also distinct between companies as well, and not just aesthetically. Joblins are all goblins, whilst Styxcoin is staffed with undead and often wield pickaxes because they mine coins.

Thankfully, you aren’t unarmed, as pretty much anything found in the offices can be used as a weapon and/or thrown. Monitors, keyboards, chairs, potted cacti, waste paper bins and more can be used to bash the face off any fantasy monster office workers you find. There are also plenty of actual weapons lying around from your enemies, whether it’s basic swords and crossbows or things like the Skelecaster, which is a skull shaped guitar that damages everything around you when you play it. You’ll also find weapons in boxes, or get them delivered by a Cubicle drone for completing certain challenges.

It’s a good job there’s so many options as you can only carry three and they all break pretty quickly, so you’ll be switching it up regularly. They’re also ranked based on how much damage they deal, so it’s easy to decide which ones you want in hand. Do you go with a mace for its long range, or a slow and heavy monitor that electrocutes enemies when it breaks on them? Many weapons have elemental properties that can help with various status effects.

On top of all these weapons you also have skills and apps. Apps are found in the dungeon and give you a consumable ability, whether healing a heart, summoning a joblin to help you, or letting you take a picture with flash to briefly stun enemies. Skills are rarer, but also last until the end of your run and have a wide variety of effects. My favourite makes any weapon you pick up quite a lot bigger than it already was, which makes small weapons more useful and big weapons comically effective, but there’s a wide range you could encounter from one run to the next. The more you use a skill in a dungeon, the more proficient you’ll become with it until you can pin it and start dungeons with it equipped, which is a welcome concession in a hard game.

Blend all of these elements together and you get Going Under’s combat. Nothing is safe from your unpaid fury, which often results in a few swings smashing nearby monitors in showers of sparks, volatile explosives burst into flames, tables break into pieces, and weapons sometimes just break. It’s often chaotic, sometimes hilarious, but almost always fair. It’s very rare that I’ve found myself too poorly equipped to finish a room thanks to some combination of weapons, skills, and apps, even if I made a poor choice earlier on, like grabbing the wrong weapon or accepting a curse from a vampire in exchange for some items.

The chaos on screen does mean that you can lose things in the melee, whether that’s smaller enemies or nearby explosives, and you’ll need quick reactions to avoid taking damage. It can also be a surprise when a weapon breaks and you default to fists instead of your other weapons. This occasionally resulted in me suddenly punching, trying to change weapons, but this being blocked by the animation, meaning I punched again and took damage.

The story of Fizzle and its mysterious new owners unfolds between dungeons, revealing their ulterior motives to sending interns into danger. It’s a surprisingly entertaining story for a roguelite and keeps things moving as it casts its satirical eye at anything to do with tech startups and millennial culture. Talking to other Fizzle employees is likely to see a withering comment about company culture, but can also hand you a task to set things on fire in a dungeon or walk a dog, which can change how you tackle the next dungeon. Those characters can then become a mentor and provide you buffs in future expeditions.

It’s all presented in a bright and colourful aesthetic with a relatively unique art style. All the people are basically cartoons, but the player character looks a bit like she’s made out of pipe cleaners. It fits with the general oddness of game very well, not to mention that it’s genuinely very pretty, especially in Fizzle’s office.

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Summary
Going Under is an excellent roguelite that is challenging, rewarding and hilarious at the same time. It takes a little while to get going, but once it does it's a delight. As a scathingly satirical look at tech startups and culture it's likely unmatched, helping it to stay fresh and funny for a long time.
Good
  • Great combat
  • Enemy variety and themes
  • Very pretty
  • Hilarious satire
Bad
  • No weapon switch on breaking
  • Can be a little difficult to see through the chaotic combat
9