Capitalism stinks. It is a brutal economic system that is the source of poverty, war, famine and the other two riders of the apocalypse. A new Steam, Xbox, PS4 and Switch rogue-like is called Goes under takes all the dehumanizing and depressing pieces of our current taste of late-stage capitalism, softens it with bright colors and clever jokes, and then wraps it in an addictive little dungeon crawler that I like to spend hours on.
Before I list all the reasons why you should play Goes under, let me tell you to play it based solely on developer Aggro Crab’s name and logo. I always want to play the game made by people who represent themselves as an angry crustacean with a bowie knife.
IN Goes under you play as Jackie, the latest marketing intern for the startup of carbonated beverages, Fizzle. On her first day, she was sent by her boss to the basement of the building to clear hordes of demons, goblins, skeletons and more instead of doing the job she was hired to do. As Jackie navigates an ever-changing maze of basements and basements, she looks for weapons to defeat her enemies and at times transforms office objects every day like rolls of paper and trash cans into the only thing that separates her from doom.
Jackie is not alone in her trials. She has the support of her mentors, who offer perks that make it easier to fight zombie crypto bros and succubi disguised as girl bosses. Her phone is loaded with apps that can stun enemies or summon TaskRabbit-like minions. She can insert Fizzle’s flagship meal replacement drinks as bombs that shock or freeze her enemies. She even has a mentor who, when equipped, increases the amount of money earned by monster killings – a small cost of living that takes her from something like $ 1 per person. Monster for $ 1.05.
Little jokes like that are what do Goes under charming despite the gloomy subject matter. The loading screens show meaningless phrases like “upscaling” and “delivery of deliveries” that are common in meetings that could have been an email. The characters are all cleverly written caricatures of millennial culture; the bootstrap-espousing CEO who only has one business because his parents gave him millions of dollars, the self-employed middle manager who does no work, the overworked, underpaid, queer female assistant who was actually supposed to run the business, and so on you, the overworked, paid-in-experience intern who actually does not get any of the experience she signed up for. Goes under comes with many jokes and references to the current situation in the millennial generation – from lack of health care to avocado toast as the only barrier to home ownership to the cognitive dissonance that comes with hating the mega-corporations that will eventually own all parts of our lives , while wanting to work for them because of the boost it gives your career. Although the game is really fun when I laughed, it was less from an “it’s fun” feeling and more from an “I laugh to avoid crying”.
Fighting and progression are simple. You choose a benefit you have earned, a mentor who offers unique benefits, and a dungeon and you get to work. Goes under assume that you have sufficient intuition to figure out what it is asking you to do. While I appreciate the game’s lack of hand-holding and sometimes found it rewarding, it can be confusing. For example, I got an attempt to ingest a toasted sandwich. Sandwiches are often bought in dungeon stores or thrown from defeated enemies. There are no special toasted sandwiches, but there is often an open fire in the dungeon. So I threw a sandwich into a flame and was happily rewarded with a completed quest. But after later clearing the dungeon with the gig-worker theme, I was given the task of breaking up the dungeon union. I thought it meant clearing the dungeon again and maybe facing a different or turned on version of the boss I’d already beaten. But after another clearing, no search notification appeared. I still have not completed that search, and so far I have not found any clue in the game on how to do that.
In another case, I was later given the task of “going on a successful date”. Dates are dungeons where you have a choice of continuing without a fight or ironing with a demon of your choice to advance to a fight. The game does not explain what a “successful date” entails, and I thought it simply meant fighting and hitting one of those “date” spaces. After completing several date rooms without getting a completed quest message, I realized that a “successful” date meant one where I took a hit or less. Although I eventually found out, it’s frustrating to try to tease meaning out of unexplained quests.
Like any rogue lite, the dungeons are procedurally generated and filled with traps, weapons, and boss fights. The dungeons are also filled with jokes and references hidden in the small details like one on a white table or poster. The soundtrack is also excellent.
Goes under‘s fun and funny writing translates into chic moments in the game. Some of Jackie’s mentors really care about her. The lead researcher, who designs all of Fizzle’s tastes, packs her a lunch as she cannot afford to eat. That lunch becomes a weapon she can use in the dungeon, where hitting enemies releases food that Jackie can eat to regain health. There is an office dog (which I am happy to report that you can pet!). You can take the dog for a walk in the dungeons, though it will slow down your movement speed, but bark when you miss things. The perks you can earn are fun and varied. One of my favorites – “Pickup Artist” – gives you the chance to charm an enemy to fight for you on a critical hit. It also changes your appearance and gives you a panty lining fedora to wear. My current build has an advantage that gives me a chance to set enemies on fire when I lock on to them.
Protip: you want to lock on. A lot.
Player Goes under made me make the connection that life looks like a roguelike. We work every day that we can (and even when we can not) because if we do not, we do not get paid, we do not eat, and we die. Weekday. Forever. Like Jackie going to these dungeons that kill the same demons in different ways every day. Forever. Until she dies. Although I’m lucky to be paid the way I am right now, I understand that my life will be that I do the same things day in and day out to ultimately keep my dog and my meat gundam alive. My mother used to have a saying she would use when I told her she “should” do something: “I need do nothing but turn black, pay taxes and die.” – an African-American language teaching version of the popular phrase “nothing can be said to be safe except death and treasure.” That’s all that life is – death and treasure. Or just death if you’re the current US president.