Roguelike Dungeon Crawler
I can only imagine that when Aggro Crab started designing Going Under, one of the first questions they asked themselves was “What if we made J*ff B*zos purple?” and that’s how they ended up with Marv, the evil manager. Indeed, the characters you meet throughout your internship journey are all technicolor versions of people you’re bound to meet in corporate America, from Tappi, the eternal beleaguered treasurer, to Swomp, the stoner guy working customer service who’s just kind of drifting through each day. The player, meanwhile, assumes the role of Jackie, the new unpaid intern at fledgling soft drink company Fizzle who thought she was signing up for a marketing position but is in fact charged almost exclusively with killing monsters in the cursed ruins of the failed tech startups upon which Fizzle’s headquarters are built. Who hasn’t been there, am I right folks?
When you’re actually diving into the dungeons, the gameplay is fairly simple. You go from room to room, clearing each of enemies using weapons you find in the dungeon (or whatever trash might be lying around) with the goal of reaching the bottom and beating the boss so you can start the whole process all over again. The simple, quick ’n’ dirty gameplay loop that fans of the roguelite genre love is well-executed if not exactly perfected. In addition to these basics, weapons break after using them for a bit, forcing you to constantly keep an eye out for fresher ones so you don’t break what you’re carrying mid-fight and screw yourself over, even if that sometimes means picking up something slightly weaker. The hectic pace of combat means that it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of durability, which can, in turn, be somewhat frustrating, but for the most part it works pretty well.
Each floor has a shop where you can stock up on a random selection of healing, weapons, or various perks, the latter of which may also be acquired through once-per floor supply closets. Each floor also has one special event room that tasks you to a challenge unique to your current dungeon, be it winning fights quickly, without taking damage or picking up drops in a limited amount of time. Dungeons are short – less than five floors – so whether a run ends in death or victory it’ll still be pretty quick. Between runs you can talk to your co-workers to gain insights into who they are as people (and they have a surprising amount of depth, rather than being the one-note gag characters many of them initially seem) as well as be given sub-quests that allow you to level up “mentorships” with them, granting more and more powerful perks to go into each run with. Between this and the tough nature of the game, there’s plenty to keep you occupied even with only three small levels.
Though the gameplay is polished and flows well it doesn’t do anything super special or new for the roguelite genre, which is why it’s a good thing that Going Under’s personality shines bright enough to make up for it. One of the first things I noticed was that the soundtrack is pretty bangin’, which makes it all the more appropriate that setting the volume options to 100% changes the setting to say “Bump It”. The game is absolutely chock full of silly jokes mocking capitalism and the gig economy – including some which I swear to god I’ve seen be suggested seriously like toilet seats set at 45-degree angles to encourage shorter breaks – as well as a minor NPC making fun of that one Lamborghini guy. If you idle long enough Jackie throws aside whatever weapon she’s currently holding, sits on the floor, and starts scrolling through her phone, many of the weapons are puns. To top it all off there’s a decent amount of casual gayness (mostly revolving around the weird demonic dating app) and you can even pet the dog, which as we all know is one of the most essential features of any modern video game.
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious English major, Going Under reminds me of a Harlan Ellison story called “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman. In that story, Ellison uses a variety of absurd scenarios to highlight the most absurd aspects of capitalism that those of us forced to live under it often take for granted, and Going Under is very similar to that. Though the jokes, gags, and puns are all funny and charming, they also serve a greater purpose in crafting the game’s thematic identity, and that’s something I really respect about it. If Going Under had tried to rely solely on its gameplay it wouldn’t have been very compelling, but the story, characters, and charm it puts forth make it a game I’ll remember for quite some time even I don’t go back to it again and again.
Going Under has a more memorable personality than many roguelites, but its mechanics are nothing special.