A lovely and intriguing tale that is truly worth exploring.
Every so often, a game passes by that I never followed closely. Underground, Grendel Games' first step into Wii U development, is one of those titles and it turned out to be quite intriguing, making it the first pleasant surprise of 2015. With a unique control scheme and fun puzzle gameplay, Underground not only manages to be entertaining, but it brings an endearing experience to the eShop.
Underground gives you control of two robotic arms, each controlled by an analog stick on the GamePad, with various functions. You can switch their functions by using buttons on the touch screen. While it certainly takes a few levels to get adjusted to the atypical controls, in the beginning eases you in gently.
Your goal in each stage is to free robots and lead them to freedom. While looking around from above in an isometric perspective, you use the robot arms to fix environmental objects with tools and make sure that the freed robots collect items on their way to safety. It can be best compared to a game like Mario vs. Donkey Kong, but every level builds more on the mechanics learned and continues to teach them seamlessly. For example, one of your robot arm functions involves drilling through blocks. While this starts off rather rote, it builds into something more intriguing and challenging over time.
As you go from level to level, the puzzle worlds grow bigger and become increasingly complex and difficult. Bosses pop up every once in a while, and you have to maneuver the robots around their destructive path. I don’t feel like spoiling too much about that, but first fight is quite striking. Using the claw function for the arms, you have to hold a boss’ pair of tentacles in place so your robots remain unharmed. It requires twitchy movement, which is both fun and challenging. Unfortunately, the robots you have to guide sometimes don’t choose a route. If you leave too many options open for them, they just keep walking back and forth, wasting precious time.
Underground’s story is minimalistic but effective. It tells the story of a little girl called Sari and Swank the robot, who have to work together and save themselves from underground caverns. The plot does not give too many details throughout as it is all told through silent, animated cut scenes, all accompanied by a lovely score. The sparse story still drove me through to the end. It’s a touching story about a girl and her robot that highlights the connection and affection between the two. The story is accompanied by impressive graphics with a stylistic, moody feel. Some models look a bit unpolished, though, and not all menus are pleasant to look at.
I had a surprisingly fun time with Underground. The title oozes intrigue and brings a unique control setup to the Wii U eShop. Some minor setbacks detract from the experience, but the interesting gameplay and controls triumph over the issues. After you learn the controls, this is a puzzle game worth spending some serious time with on your Wii U.