Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: QUByte Interactive
Developer: QUByte Interactive
Pretty much everything in Underland moves very slowly. The characters you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B amble along at a leisurely pace. The giant buzzsaw that cuts through the ground grinds slowly through the earth. The pits of acid that kill you instantly seep and ooze along the ground (except when they’re going downhill, in which case they at least move faster). For a game where you’re trying to help astronauts trying to return to their families hidden deep underground, there’s not a whole lot of urgency to be found here.
While there’s a lot to be said for living at such an unhurried pace, I can’t say it’s something I appreciate in a puzzle-platformer – particularly when, as is the case in Underland, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it.
My big problem with it is that Underland is seldom all that challenging, which means it often feels like you’re waiting around just to do the most obvious steps. You may be able to see right away exactly where you need to dig out a hole to drain an acid pit – but you’ll then have to watch as your buzzsaw creeps along at a snail’s pace towards your goal.
It also doesn’t help that you control all kinds of objects here, except switching between them also feels like it takes forever. Take, for example, a level where you control a pair of teleporting machines, a pair of gates, and a pair of people. You’re constantly switching back and forth between all those items throughout the level, but you basically need to cycle through every one of them just to go from one item to the next. It’s an arduous process that feels kind of silly when you take into account the Switch’s touchscreen.
I will note, in the interests of fairness, that there’s one thing in Underland that moves quickly: you control carts filled with TNT, and those can zip around with great haste. The thing is, they might actually move a little too quickly, since it’s hard to get them in just the right position, and you can never tell just how explosive they’ll be. This, in turn, goes back to the game’s bigger issue: you can position everything else just right, only for one ill-timed explosion to make all your efforts pointless and you need to start over – and go right back to moving everything slowly back into place.
Clearly, there are worse sins for a game to commit than simply moving too slow. Underland works as you’d hope it would, even if it doesn’t work at a speed I can appreciate or enjoy. But you should expect more from a game that simply being functional, and there’s nothing in Underland that goes beyond that very low bar.
QUByte Interactive provided us with an Underland Switch code for review purposes.