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UnderDungeon Review


It’s fair to say that I have become increasingly disillusioned with the current crop of retro-styled games that are working their way through the Xbox Store. However, the retro-styled game to end them all has appeared on the brow of the hill in the form of UnderDungeon, courtesy of developers Josyan, and publishers RedDeerGames. 

This is a game that is hard to pigeon hole, and you’ll find out what I mean as I go through the steps of the review. So, come with me to the monochrome world of UnderDungeon…

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The very first thing that you will notice about the presentation of UnderDungeon is that the visuals run purely black and white lines, with no colour on display anywhere. The second thing you will notice is that this is even more retro than a Raleigh Chopper wearing 3D specs, reminding of classics from the ZX Spectrum era, never mind anything more modern. All it needs are some sprites clipping into each other and it would be perfect. 

Luckily, the developers haven’t gone that retro, but the way this has been laid out is very reminiscent of those days. The action is presented from a top-down, 2D perspective, with extremely simple levels and enemy designs in place. It works well though.  

Soundwise, UnderDungeon is on point as well, with retro-style music playing as we go through the game, speech depicted as a series of buzzing noises and text boxes explaining what is happening. This is bang on for the era, and even the font used for the text has been perfectly matched to the style of the games it is paying homage to.

The story is also a bit left field, to be honest. We play as a cat called Kimuto, and have just started a new job at a delivery company. We are going to be a delivery driver, and in order to do our job we have to take parcels to various people who request them. Of course, if that was all there was to it, the word “simulator” would have been somewhere in the title. As luck would have it, the world of Kutopia, where we have to ply our trade, has recently been invaded by monsters, and so we not only have to drop a parcel off but we have to cut our way through a horde of regular monsters and some bosses too. As we go, we get more complicated deliveries to make (well, not really, but the levels get a lot more complicated). 

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UnderDungeon plays out as a kind of a dungeon crawler as we are left to start every run in the office, waiting for our phone to ring before heading out to pick up the parcel from the collection point. From there, expect to be dumped into the level and tasked with finding the customer. Whether this customer is an adventurer called “Lank” or a scared mouse, the objective is to locate them and hand the parcel over. But then, there is always a reason why we then have to continue to explore, staying put until the boss of the level has been defeated. 

Luckily, as we go, there’s the chance to find equipment to help us in our endeavours. From the obvious, like a sword that we can use to attack and trainers that let us run fast, to the more bizarre items like springs that enable us to jump, a gun that fires bubbles and something that is pretty much a direct copy of the hookshot from the Zelda games; there is always something new to find to help you get through. In fact, the hookshot reference is probably the thing that makes me lean towards this being almost a Zelda-like title, with exploration rewarded, and even bombs to place. In addition to secrets to find, UnderDungeon is stuffed with puzzles too; none are going to give you sleepless nights or a headache, but they do mix the action up a bit and that is always welcome. 

However, the combat is a bit strange, working almost like a twin stick shooter with you choosing the direction to swing or throw your weapon, and then hitting X to attack. There is a slight delay in the attack animation which makes things harder than they need to be, but you can soon adapt. Using your weapons to overcome foes will get you money, and there are shops to find in the level where you can buy various consumables, such as health potions and bombs. 

So far, much of UnderDungeon has been positive, so now for the bad – although to be honest, there aren’t a huge amount of problems, aside from two things. 

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One thing that does stand out is that the saving system is a bit of a faff, and I found it easier to just wait until I started a level, where the game auto saves, and then quit out. The other problem is found with the very first boss… I killed it, and it killed me at the exact same time. When I spawned back in, the game had me stuck in the doorway between the rooms, and there was no way to get out of it. I had to dashboard, lose all the progress and start the level again, which rankled a bit. A little bit more polish would not have gone amiss. 

In conclusion then, UnderDungeon is a game that will restore your faith in the retro scene. It is quirky and charming, yet while the action isn’t fast and furious, it is much more considered. There are issues, but the levels are varied enough to keep you coming back. 

UnderDungeon is probably unlike anything you would have played this century, and so as a somewhat unique proposition, I recommend you give it a try.

UnderDungeon is on the Xbox Store

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