Underland Review: Small Rewards
Underland is a small game. Featuring just thirty levels which take only a few minutes each, you could easily complete it in a single sitting. Featuring only a few mechanics at first, it starts as a basic game and even after adding more options as you go along it never grows complicated. Despite this, however, it features some devious puzzles which not only provide a lot to think about, but multiple ways to solve them. It’s worth a look if you’re into this sort of title.
A group of astronauts went into space but upon returning they find the surface world has grown uninhabitable. What remains of humanity now lives deep underground, and you’ll need to dig your way down to join them. What little story is here is delivered in a series of bookending title cards. But, it’s only here to set the stage for these puzzles.
In each level you’ll have a pair of astronauts you need to guide to an elevator somewhere on the stage. Level one starts off with you only needing to walk them across the stage. Soon though, you’ll find a variety of challenges between you and the exit. Pools of acid. Vents spitting out deadly chemicals. Areas that are entirely blocked off and buried by dirt.
The Right Tools For The Job
You’ll have tools to help you get there, though. Exactly what you’re working with varies by level but options include a powerful saw that can cut through dirt, rolling explosives you can set off or have set off by the environment, floating platforms you can position where you need them, and high powered vacuums used to reposition that acid.
Some levels require you to get both of your astronauts to the end while others only require one to survive. This can provide a whole other layer of strategy. At times, sacrificing one character might allow you to set up an easier path for the other. Or perhaps you’ll want to keep both safe to give yourself another chance if you mess up.
Don’t be fooled by the easy pace of Underland’s early levels. Around the halfway point, things get significantly trickier. You’ll always have the tools needed to escape but often they’ll be blocked off themselves. More and more often, you’ll first need to free your tools before you can free yourselves.
Most tools control intuitively. While each controls differently, they’re all simple enough that there’s little learning curve when you get a new option. The astronauts only move and jump. Bombs move and explode. Your drill only needs to be moved while gates can be lifted or closed.
Clear The Way
A few of the later puzzles gave me minor troubles, not because I didn’t know what to do, but because the level of exacting precision required isn’t ideal for a gamepad. Few levels make you be that perfect, but one in particular really doesn’t feel right on console. It feels like it should be handled by a mouse. Still, this is a minor complaint.
Underland creates a nice atmosphere with good-looking pixel art and a light but atmospheric soundtrack. I actually really enjoyed the sound effects, which do a great job of bringing a bit of lightness to the game when it gets a bit challenging.
You’ll finish Underland relatively quickly, even if some of the late puzzles end up giving you trouble. As I said up front, this is a small game. That’s not inherently a bad thing, though. It’s well priced and provides a few pleasant hours of entertainment. If solving some solid puzzles and helping your astronauts reach the remnants of humanity sounds like a good time, give Underland a try.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC; Publisher: QUByte Interactive; Developer: Minicactus Games; Players: 1; Released: September 30th, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $7.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Underland provided by the publisher.