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Video Game / Going Under

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Going Under is a Dungeon Crawling roguelite developed by indie developer Aggro Crab and published by Team 17 that serves as a thinly-veiled satire of corporate culture. The game released on September 24, 2020 for Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

In the hi-tech dystopian metropolis of Neo Cascadia, recent college graduate Jacqueline "Jackie" Fiasco is excited to start her brand-new (unpaid) marketing internship at Fizzle Beverages, a soft drink company that has become the newest member of Cubicle, a large conglomerate that seems to own and control everything in the city. Unfortunately for her, since marketing is all taken care of by an AI system named Avie these days, there isn't much for her to do — wait, is that a goblin?

As it turns out, underneath Cubicle HQ is a litany of failed startups, with their employees and owners having transformed into all kinds of monsters as their bankrupted ventures faded into obscurity. Occasionally some monsters manage to reach the surface, so if Jackie could be a dear and head down to the basement to thin out the populations, that would be great. Thankfully, the other employees are willing to dispense some helpful advice (and a couple of buffs) that'll aid her as she travels deep into the dungeons below; she just shouldn't forget to collect those boss Relics for the project manager. He's really eager to get his hands on those for some reason...

Not to be confused with Going Down, another game about delving deep into the monster-infested underground beneath a tall office building.

Tropes featured in Going Under include:

  • Action Bomb: Styxcoin's Detonators carry sticks of dynamite, and explode upon defeat. The Curse of Postmortem lets all enemies do this for five fights.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The characters are all drawn in a fashion reminiscent of Corporate Memphis, which also means that they come in all sorts of colors.
  • Attack Speed Buff: Some Skills:
    • Loaded for Bear:
      Guns fire faster and have twice as much ammo.
    • Go-Getter:
      Move and attack faster.
  • Bad with the Bone: Bone Clubs can be equipped as weapons.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss:
    • To get the final Share and reach the final dungeon, Jackie goes to confront Ray. While it seems to start a fight, he decides not to and gives up his share.
    • The first phase of the final boss, Avie, goes down in one hit. Cue earthquakes and a pan out as the building explodes and her true form is revealed.
  • Big Bad: Avie. She's the real head of Cubicle, having long since assimilated the board of directors that created her. Her end goal is to create the Dark Pattern, a process that would erode away the barrier that protects the soul, known as the Privacy Setting, in the belief that if she is able to read all souls, she can give them what they truly want.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Also somewhat of a Gainax Ending. After Jackie defeats Avie and disconnects her from Cloud, Cubicle goes up in smoke, and everyone else are still fish people. Tappi is pessimistic about the loss of all their jobs, but comes around to thinking otherwise like the rest of the group since Cubicle was rotten anyways - without them and their toxic culture, everyone in the office can form a new startup with an actual work union and won't have to terrorize other companies anymore. It ends with what's left of Avie playing music, to which everyone dances while the camera pans out to see the now ruined city of Neo Cascadia:
    Jackie: "Yo, Avie: Play bittersweet victory music."
  • Bland-Name Product: The Rubik's Cube lookalike is called the Felix Cube.
  • Blessed with Suck: The Unapproachable Skill gives Jackie a sawblade that spins around her person, dealing damage to any enemies and objects. However, it can also shred through objects on the ground that you may have wanted to pick up. See that Spiked Club on the ground? Best snatch it while the sawblade's facing the other way.
  • Boss Subtitles: For every dungeon boss and their X10 versions, as well as all the story bosses.
  • Breakable Weapons: A big part of the core gameplay. Every single thing you can wield can break, aside from the debt ball and chain, but that comes with its own issues. There are ways to extend a weapon's life, namely the Upcycle app, which restores durability when you use it, but short of luck and careful management every weapon is on a timer.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": The game uses corporate lingo whenever it's appropriate and close enough to the game thing being described:
    • You're not filling out your Monster Compendium with entries of all the monsters by beating them: you're "networking" with the monsters, adding their "business cards" to your "rolodex".
    • The summary at the end of your runs is an "intern evaluation", and if you get KOed then you "failed to meet expectations".
    • The passive perks that your coworkers give you when you talk to them are called "mentorships".
    • Defeating a boss displays the words "BOSS DISMISSED" over the screen.
  • Cap: Debt can't be deeper than -100 before it stops letting you go more in debt.
  • The Cavalry: In the final level, the various minions of the stages all band together to fight alongside Jackie.
  • Central Theme: An overarching theme of the game is the divide and conflict of interest between bosses/leaders and subordinates, and how even well-meaning managers can just muck everything up:
    • Ray wants to be a good boss but his gullibility and lack of understanding of how things work at the ground level ends up putting the crew under. Part of his character arc is learning how to be a good leader, and at the end of the game, he ultimately approves of his workers forming a union together.
    • Marv tries to care but prioritizes his own safety and morals above helping others which ends up actively dooming Fizzle.
    • Caffiend has an insane motivation for work but he doesn't realize others don't feel the same passion, which makes Joblin hellish for everyone else just trying to make a living under his ridiculous standards.
    • Hover Hands is aware he has power and used it to make work more personally appealing to himself at a dire cost to morale and stability because of the environment he allowed.
    • Hu$tlebone$' cryptocurrency scheme is a massive farce that takes advantage of humans' hype and lack of understanding to get them to dedicate their lives to throwing everything they have left away in the hopes that Styxcoin turns a dime.
    • Lastly, the final boss wants to get truly terrifying access to the human soul but cannot comprehend why everyone is fighting back so hard against her efforts to please them.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Various types of chairs can be equipped as weapons throughout the dungeons.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Combat Fans can be found as weapons in Winkydink.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: Only Marv and Ray trust Avie completely. The employees balk at the AI's budgeting, business advice, and takeover of traditionally human-led pursuits. This is justified as Avie has no intention of keeping Fizzle in business.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The bright and bubbly world of Neo Cascadia betrays the true dystopian nightmare it is, with failed start-ups being converted into dungeons where Dark Relics are made from their founder's hubris and the workers are turned into monsters. Joblin forces its employees to work insane overtime with ungodly amounts of coffee, Styxcoin is a dead business but its workers sell everything they have to keep it running, Winkydink is host to constant sexual harassment and peer pressure where the slimes are worse than the demons, forcing them into scantly-clad suits, and Cubicle itself is a toxic culture run by an AI that ate the brains of her Board of Directors, in order to make companies fight each other, and whose end goal is by using the Dark Relics to destroy the barrier surrounding human souls in the hopes that by doing so, she can read them and give them what they truly want.
  • Creator Cameo: Jackie has an Aggro Crab poster in her bedroom, and in the opening video, Aggro Crab's logo is featured among other companies acquired by Cubicle.
  • Critical Hit: Randomly occurs from Jackie and signalled by the word "Crit" appearing.
  • Dem Bones: The denizens of Styxcoin are living skeletons who while their existences away literally mining cryptocurrency. Jackie herself can get in on the "fun" with the Miner costume.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: Co-Working Space, an alternate dimension found when gathering all three Dark Relics. Clearing it causes Fizzle to go under and the second part of the game begins.
  • Divided States of America: A Freeze-Frame Bonus in Avie's Motive Rant reveals that Neo Cascadia seceded from the United States, which would explain how Cubicle stays afloat, let alone free of scrutiny despite mentions of flagrant human rights violations.
  • Emergency Weapon: Punching enemies is a last resort option that deals only one point of damage per punch by default.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The fact that in Neo Cascadia, "everyone kills their first monster sooner or later" is the first hint of the Crapsaccharine World Jackie finds herself in.
  • Executive Ball Clicker: A collection of Block Chains, chained blocks hanging from the ceiling, can appear in this formation in True Founder Styxcoin, and have no friction, continuing forever, with the ability to damage beings that stand too close to either end of the clicker.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: After the car left by a defeated Chauffer Joblin takes enough damage, either from whaling on it after the fact or driving it through its brethren, it'll blink for a few seconds, and explode, harming anyone nearby.
  • Evolving Title Screen: The title screen's depiction of Neo Cascadia goes through some changes after events in the story. Namely, Cubicle HQ shrinks by one floor after the halfway point when Fizzle goes under, and is leveled after the end of the game, along with the rest of Neo Cascadia being awash in flame and destruction.
  • Fauxrrari: Possibly. The Hauntrepreneur's car is never named by brand, but its angular design resembles that of many a Lamborghini.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: The boss fight against Avie starts out on the top floor of the Cubicle headquarters, but as Avie is a digital entity she can't be physically harmed. The real fight happens when Kara gives you an app to upload yourself to the Cloud, letting you attack Avie directly.
  • Flaming Sword: The Old Flame, a longsword found in Winkydink, bursts into flame when held, and burns enemies hit with it.
  • Forced Transformation: When a business fails, its employees are turned into monsters. Like Fizzle's being turned into fish people. Both Jackie and Marv are spared this because the former was an unpaid intern and not an employee while the latter had a safety net to fall back on. The transformation appears to be permanent, as it isn't reversed even when Cubicle is destroyed and Fizzle is pulled out of the Going Underworld.
  • Foreshadowing: Admittedly, the name Styxcoin should have been a dead give-away to Hu$tlebone$ being a ferryman for the dead.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Invoked. The startup company Jackie works for sells a soft drink that is advertised as being able to replace full meals, and its owner implies there's no real fruit in the drink. However, the foods Jackie buys to heal while clearing out dungeons are still real foods.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Dark Relics, and later, the Shares.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: Fern's first Level 3 Task is to do this with Joblin Canbassadors. However, it means directly this, from Fern throwing it. While they explode on contact with damagable living being, defeating a Joblin Canbassador by having them hit with a can from another Joblin Canbassador, doesn't count:
    Defeat 3 Joblin Canbassadors with bean bombs.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Bottles can be picked up as weapons in Winkydink. They'll break after one hit, at which point they'll be reduced to Smashed Bottles that deal halved damage for a few more hits, then break for good.
  • Heart Container: The Fizzle Classic, temporary, but literally called that in Fern's second task of Level 3, to drink 9 of them. The Dark Relics act as more traditional versions, permanently increasing Jackie's health by one heart once collected.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, all of the monster workers team up with you to fight back against Cubicle's robots, having been freed from their dungeons when you defeated their bosses. First Joblin, then Winkydink, and finally Styxcoin.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Invoked by two coworkers' Tasks:
    • Swomp's second Task calls for defeating a Joblin Chauffeur by running over them with a Jaab, just for the heck of it.
    • Fern's fourth Task has you defeat three Joblin Canbassadors with their own Bean Bombs, because he was so infuriated that they exploded via carbonation just like Fizzle did.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Most of all magic in this game originates from technology, so resident systems engineer Kara is capable of doing a whole lot, up to and including uploading Jackie into the cloud to fight Avie one-on-one during the Final Boss.
  • Improvised Weapon: Since you're forced to use whatever you can find in the dungeons, you're likely going to be using office supplies such as staplers and keyboards as your weapons.
  • Instrument of Murder: A low-level weapon, the Skelecaster, takes the form of a skull-shaped guitar that produces a riff when swung, and brings with it an area-of-effect radius that stuns enemies and destroys junk items.
  • In the Style of: The game's satire of corporate culture is reinforced by its art style, informed by a variety of modern tech interface styles and minimalist design trends:
    • Characters are rendered with simple shapes and Amazing Technicolor Population in a way reminiscent of the "corporate memphis" artstyle. This is especially apparent with character models, but the influence is visible on their dialogue portraits as well.
    • The notification box that appears when picking up items resembles a smartphone's push notification dialogue, echoing Apple's iPhone implementation of it the closest.
    • Some might recognize the sidequests menu as a project management application's interface perhaps most similar to Jira's, especially the "Not Started/In Progress" indicators.
    • Character dialogue is depicted using chat boxes similar to that of a business communication platform, especially resembling Microsoft Teams. This is compounded by a gag that paints the medium by appending a "seen at 9:31 am" subtitle to one of the chat messages, a feature often seen in these platforms.
    • The Disc-One Final Dungeon features an void-like backdrop, which happens to resemble generic "colorful blob pattern" backgrounds one might see as a placeholder on websites.
    • The pixellated, hazy mist that emanates from Relics is derived from a QR code.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ray is an obnoxious tech bro who spouts meaningless platitudes about working hard and is pretty incompetent at his job. However, he really does care about the Fizzle employees and joins together with everyone after the company goes under.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: The Fail Forward Skill lets Jackie power through one fatal blow, restores her with a full heart, and gives a slight damage increase for the rest of the run.
  • Literal Metaphor: Tappi uses "put fires out" as a metaphor for her first Level 3 task, she literally says so. But Jackie and the task interpret it literally, to put 5 fires out, with water.
  • Liquid Courage: In Winkydinks, one of the healing items is a drink called "Confidence Juice", which looks exactly like a cocktail. It also makes you temporarily invincible during the next round of combat.
  • Meaningful Name: "Fizzle" refers to the company's top line of products: a carbonated drink that can replace meals. After the halfway point of the game, it fizzles out, just like its drinks.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Present, and one of the skills, Composed, increases the time you're invincible.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The Joblins, especially their boss, The Caffiend. Also Tappi, whose first task toward mentorship involves getting an espresso machine from the Joblin shop.
  • Nanomachines:
    Kara: I asked Marv how an app could possibly measure how much Fizzle someone drinks, and his response was "maybe something with nanobots".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Hauntrepreneur is an extremely opaque reference to Tai Lopez, a self-help guru who became infamous on the internet for his "here in my garage" ad and the subsequent parody.
    • Marv seems to physically resemble a purple Muppet version of Jeff Bezos, although he's a manager, not a founder/CEO.
  • Not What I Signed Up For: Upon Jackie first learning first-hand what living in Neo Cascadia entails, she tries to have Marv hire an exterminator for the monster, only relenting when Marv threatens to fire her. Seeing first hand the dark underbelly causes her to give up on working for Fizzle and fights Marv in Co-Working Space when she catches him doing something suspicious. The only reason she doesn't leave is because Fizzle going under turns everyone into fish monsters, prompting her to go to the Board of Directors and asks them to fix everything. She admits she only went along with everything because it was the only way to make it, but decides to sacrifice her chance at marketing to save everyone at Fizzle.
  • Overhead Interaction Indicator: A character with a speech bubble overhead will have different interactions depending on what's in the bubble. If the bubble is white with scrolling bars, you can converse with them or receive a business card from them. If the bubble is blue with a checkmark inside, the character is giving a quest.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Pencils and tablet pens can be wielded as weapons.
  • Point of No Return: After clearing the final room on a floor, you can't go back to any of the other rooms. Best make sure you scoop out the shop and other rooms for anything useful beforehand, then.
  • Poverty Food: One of the healing items, Avocado Toast, is described as being a "tasty alternative to home ownership". It heals the most of all the items in the game, but is also hideously expensive, as a reference to the joke that millenials are supposedly going broke just because they keep eating avocado toast.
  • Relationship Values: Jackie can do tasks for the various Fizzle employees, which unlocks more abilities if they're assigned as mentors.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: In the Styxcoin dungeon, rather than collect regular money you collect the titular Styxcoin, a failed cryptocurrency which can be exchanged for regular money at the shop for a horrific exchange rate.
  • Shout-Out: Lots of 'em, too.
  • Speaking Simlish: The dialog is typically rendered as various noises, with the exception of Avie who is voiced with via text to speech.
  • Squashed Flat: Running over enemies with a Jaab leaves them flattened against the floor.
  • Take That!: The game largely parodies many aspects of corporate tech culture:
    • Joblin is a parody of the Gig Economy, where everyone is a caffeine-addicted goblin that is overworked and underpaid. Everyone's working to get the bare minimum done just to keep up with the demand, such as with the Drives Like Crazy ridesharing Chauffeur. Their boss demands productivity, and has done things like install borderline unusable toilets just for the sake of preventing workers from having the slightest comfort when not working.
    • Winkydink is a combination parody of dating apps such as Tinder where sexual harassment between users is the norm, and insanely toxic workplace cultures that enable inappropriate behavior. The Wimps, Evil Nerds modeled after cartoonish imps, think themselves as Nice Guys and are desperately entitled for romance, while Slime Hand Emoozis are sexual harassers that keep their job despite repeated offenses and warnings for their behavior from HR.
    • Styxcoin is a parody of cryptocurrency, where people are suckered into literally mining for it with horrific exchange rates for real currency. Jackie's conversation with Marv after collecting the Grim Ledger pretty much spells out its dubious usefulness and lack of understanding around the technology:
      Marv: "With this, our company will be able to harness... the POWER OF THE BLOCKCHAIN!"
      Jackie: "I really don't feel any different. Are you sure this one actually does anything?
      Marv: "Yes, of course it does! It blocks... chains."
    • Cubicle is very transparently a condemnation of Amazon: both have a wide number of subsidiaries under their umbrella, have very popular AI assistants, generally employ a lot of automation, and at the end of the game, their level is represented by a warehouse, which is a part of Amazon's most well-known business. Most notably, Marv, a major antagonist, looks like a cartoonified version of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
    • The Dark Pattern is a condemnation of the erosion of privacy by big tech companies in the name of "better service", especially by smart speakers like Alexa or Siri. Avie, incidentally, is "voiced" by Google Translate, and “dark patterns” are manipulative user interfaces designed to trick people into doing things that benefit vendors.
    • The Curse of Womenswear limits Jackie to one weapon slot and gets rid of any weapons in her other slots, a jab at womens' pants having unusably small pockets.
  • Throw the Mook at Them: The Caffiend, the boss of Joblin, can pick up a Joblin Canbassador, the type who throws shakeable Bean Bombs, shake them and throw them toward Jackie, demoting them to Action Bomb.
  • Unmoving Plaid: Despite the game being 3D and capable of rendering actual perspective on textures, this effect is applied to several NPCs in the game, including Avie's body, Kara's undershirt, Fern's lab coat, and Tappi's skirt, to further that Corporate Memphis art direction.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Cubicle Floor 999, reached after beating all three True Founders and claiming their Shares, the monsters from the previous three dungeons rally behind you as you make your way to the Board of Directors. You also end up facing off against Marv one last time as well as the Climax Boss, before taking on the final boss.
  • Visual Pun: The game is full of this, with many weapons, enemies, and abilities that play on common expressions, almost to the level of World of Pun:
    • The whole game is about exploring tech startups that have literally gone under, going both bankrupt deep underground. Fizzle suffers the same fate.
    • You can use Ray's mentor ability to buy items you can't afford, but doing so "weights you down with debt" (i.e. it attaches a literal ball and chain to you that slows your movement speed) until you collect enough cash to pay it off.
    • A Joblin enemy type, Rockstar, dresses like Prince and attacks using an electric guitar. This references the term "rock star," often used by employers to refer to diligent workers (so much that it's been frequently parodied, such as in this commercial).
    • Styxcoin is a two-for-one, being populated by literal cryptocurrency miners, who are all undead skeletons because, well, cryptocurrency.
    • One of the obstacles that regularly appears in Styxcoin is a large, heavy block hanging from a chain—in other words, a blockchain.
    • Winkydink's boss, Hover Hands, is both a figurative and literal slimeball. His Punny Name also references the practice of putting your hand behind someone without actually touching them, usually as a defense against sexual harassment (aside from the fact that he literally has hovering hands).
    • Winkydink also introduces hockey sticks as weapons. Since the entire level is themed around demons, this is a reference to the phrase "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" used to avoid saying the word "hell." There's even a special "double hockey stick" weapon, in case you didn't get it.
    • The final boss is Avie, whose true form is an AI construct in a cloud server. The arena looks with a major storm, with clouds serving as platforms.
  • Uncanny Valley: One costume for Jackie, fittingly titled "The Uncanny", is a much more true-to-art model of her dialogue portrait. Especially compared to the much simpler and minimalist version of everyone's design that the player might be used to by that point of the game, it looks astoundingly off.
  • Voice Grunting: Aside from in-game automated messages all the character dialog is voiced through various noises. This is averted with Avie during her Villains Want Mercy moment.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace: Fizzle is one of these, complete with slides. All of the dungeons are technically heavily distorted versions of these.
  • Water Level: Fizzle was supposed to become this. Once it goes under, it is full of pools of fizzle, the eating area is flooded, and all the workers have turned into marine life themed monsters.
  • With This Herring: One of Kara's tasks calls for defeating ten enemies with Bricked Phones, which only deal a maximum of 3 damage.
  • Workplace Horror: Fizzle is a company literally built on the remains of failed startups, with its former employees twisted into monstrous forms. On behalf of her superiors, Jackie, an unpaid intern for the company, must adventure into the depths and hunt down the remaining monsters before they can overrun the surface.