Dan Gartman takes players under the sea with his new visual novel Under What? Should players get acquainted with these new watery surroundings, or is this brief adventure all washed up?
Under What? Review
As the protagonist of this tale, an old fisherman immediately faces a dire fate. While casting a line on a pier at sunset, he gets dragged deep under the waves, down to the bottom of its depths. However, it’s not a solemn experience while down there – a fish is there to greet him and offer him the chance to ask three questions. After he asks these three inquiries, he is then tasked with answering one of his own. It’s not a grand adventure that’ll take players around the oceanic depths; rather, it is a dialog between those from two different backgrounds.
This might seem like an interesting concept, and the distinct art style and downtempo beats certainly backs this up. However, things quickly unravel once the dialog begins. What is stylish in still art panels turns to crude when jokes like the played out “ligma” rear their ugly head. It comes across as childish, and violently crashes with the overall setting that was crafted by the artists.
Not only is there no tact, there is no structure to speak of either. One would expect some sort of overarching plot, additional characters, or anything else to guide players along, but there is absolutely no context to go off of in this title. It’s hard to get attached to its world when you don’t even know what world you are exploring in the first place. Rather, the entirety of the story rests between the fish and the old man.
When one thinks the story is going to pick up with the introduction of some history, it soon proves to be a joke. There is no reason why this was all for naught, and it lacks any sort of impact. Without spoiling too much, there is a unique ending to this tale, but it comes out of left field and makes absolutely no sense when given the context for the rest of the game. Even those looking to go with the flow will be left dumbfounded in the worst possible way.
There is an element of choice in Under What?, but this too is underdeveloped. With choices like “Yo, tell me what you want…,” it feels like the script was an afterthought, something to piece together the art and nothing more.
It’s not like much of this matters much in the grand scheme of things, as this title neatly wraps up in a scant 10 minutes. There are no achievements to speak of, and nothing else to persuade players to come back. Even though this is a free title, it also proves to be a hollow one as well.
The aesthetics of Under What? make for an interesting showpiece, but the downtempo beats and solid art can’t hide its poor story and lack of direction.
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