by Anthony Maynard
reviewed on PC
UnderMine is an action-adventure roguelike mixed with RPG elements. Those who are fans of The Binding of Isaac will feel right at home with the combat mechanics and dungeon crawling. There are no heroes in UnderMine; you start as nothing but a lowly peasant, tasked by Archmage Arkanos to delve deep into the mine to discover the reason for the tremors, while simultaneously rescuing the blacksmith. Goldmine floor one is where Our peasant's journey begins on Golmine floor one, and move from each randomly generated room, mining gold as you progress deeper into treachery. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
Each room is filled with creatures looking to end your run early. When you enter a room full of enemies, further progression is blocked until downing them all. UnderMine is deceptively challenging. Enemies hit hard, hidden traps lay in wait, even the giant holes in the floor aren't easily avoidable at times. The regular mobs are hard, the boss fights, however, up the ante and take some serious patience and planning to overcome. My first run-in with a centipede type creature had me dying a handful of times due to the plethora of abilities at its disposal. Death is inevitable in UnderMine but to help you with that is an array of items to find and upgrade.
Gold Rules Everything Around Me
As mentioned above, scattered throughout the mines are gold veins to harvest. Gold is the key to progression, and through that success in the challenging fights ahead. When mining, it is best to collect it immediately because any free gold that hits the ground spawns "Pilfers." Pilfers are cute green slimes that love gold, and they will stop at nothing to steal it from you. When they do manage to pick some up, you have a limited time to react before the Pilfers disappear. Upon death, you return to the hub with a percentage of your gold and all items lost. Your currency can also be used on shopkeepers that you find during your travels in the mines. Randomly generated throughout, you will come across a shop that offers an assortment of goodies to help you along the way—these range from bombs, food for health, and potions, all at various costs.
The hub area is where any NPCs you've rescued (like the blacksmith) offer you various upgrades or items in exchange for gold. The blacksmith provides two types of gear - permanent upgrades to things like total health, pickaxe swing damage, and an upgraded sack that results in you losing less gold upon deaths. The second being, "artifacts," which are single-use buffs that are lost when your peasant dies. UnderMine offers a refreshing progression system that allows you to grow in strength over time. Although there's a variety of relics to collect, they left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. None of them ever change the way you play or make any run stand out from those previous. In addition to artifacts, you will discover curses that are quite debilitating and not worth the cost unless you have an item to remove them. Ultimately the progression system steals the show and is what will catch the eye and appreciation of those who play.
A Polished Experience
I feel that it is essential to touch on just how good this game looks and runs. I am not generally a big fan of the pixel art style for video games, but something about the dark, dreary color palette pulled me in. The animations of the characters and monsters are smooth and better looking than I expected. Tying it all in beautifully is the audio and charming soundtrack. Every swing of your weapon or the crackling fire in the forge, helps players feel the dark but charming tones on display.
UnderMine is an addicting adventure that you can't put down. You could die time and time again but still load up for another run. Despite combat being repetitive over time, and relics not doing much to change the gameplay loop, we are still left with a fun roguelike experience. The progression system and it's permanent unlocks go along way to make things fun. Even when losing items after death, not having to restart completely keeps things refreshing. Boss battles are unique but require careful planning and patience because of challenging combat. With beautiful pixel art and a charming soundtrack, UnderMine is an enjoyable game.
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Pixel Art, Soundtrack, Challenging Boss Fights, Progression System
Lackluster Relics, Repetitive Combat