Into the Underdusk
You live in a world devoid of life, and must go out into the darkness to find the one thing that still matters… No, it’s not a Dark Souls demake – Underdusk is (maybe) the next best thing – a free, dark, exploration platformer with some light-metroidvania elements.
Underdusk is an challenging exploration platformer, quite similar to You Have to Win the Game, sans CGA graphics. The slow pace of games like these often belies their difficult nature – sure, Underdusk isn’t at I Wanna Be the Guy or VVVVVV levels of difficultly – not by a long shot – but there are some pretty tough sections will demand athletic perfection in order to avoid a trip to the flaming underworld (the Uberunderdusk?). Adding to the challenge, you have absolutely no means of defending yourself against the myriad of enemies, instead limited to carefully maneuvering your way past them.
Most notable of the more sanity draining encounters is a flying mask segment reminiscent of perhaps the most scary enemy in all of the Super Mario franchise, which might cause a ragequit or two among the more sedentary crowd. Some of these more challenging sections can be quite frustrating, but the game does well to balance with with generously placed checkpoints and each segment being generally quite short. How this difficulty and style will suit you is hard to say: comments on the download page show some mixed feelings from the “awesome” to “#@&! this game” so it may entirely depend on your affection for retro/precision-based platformers. For me at least, it felt about the right balance of frustrating and fair, that conquering the game felt immensely satisfying.
In true retro fashion there’s also no real-hand holding here – it’s up to you to figure out what to do. Which is basically “collect all the stuff” that takes shape as 18 blue glowing orbs scattered across the map (because if I saw some blue glowing orbs floating around on an unreachable ledge in a murky underground, I’d also go out of my way to collect them too). As also seems to be the trend with indie games, the world is dark and mysterious. It strongly hints that there is more going on behind the curtain than first seems, but as is also the trend with these kinds of games, if there is more to it, there is no real clear explanation as to what really is going on – it’s implied and left to your own imagining. Whether you consider this “creative” or “lazy” is up to you, but whatever your poison, it’s worth keeping in mind that the ending is about as self-explanatory as the recently covered I’m Alright.
Part of the underlying mystery is hinted at whenever you die – you are sent to some kind of limbo/netherland for a moment before respawning at the last checkpoint. This does much to add to the mystery of the world, especially as you can always manage to just reach the edge of the Netherland screen and see tantalising hints at further landscape beyond… As far as I could tell though, even after finishing the game there is actually no way to explore this part further and the “scene” serves no real purpose. As this is a game-of-many-deaths, difficult platforming sections halted by pauses in the netherworld tend to become more drawn out than they really needed to be.
Despite some of the negative points, the game is easy to pick up and play and strikes a pretty decent balance between challenge and length. You Have to Win the Game is still my favorite but Underdusk provides an overall experience long enough to make beating the challenge feel satisfying on completion but short enough to not overstay its welcome.
Into the Underdusk | Download on Game Jolt