Undergrave: An Open Alpha Review

     Three Dudes Make Indie Games, creators of the indie title Tel and Aitch, have an awesome Castlevania inspired rogue-like action-platformer game called Undergrave that's been in the Open Alpha stage since October 2016, and has not been updated since November 2016.

     In Undergrave players take the role of an aged, nameless alchemist fallen into darkness.  In the gothic underworld you must rely on your chain-whip, platforming skills, and knowledge of alchemy to make your way through this dangerous journey.  You must slay strange monsters and harvest their viscera.

     What immediately caught my eye was the alchemy crafting mechanic.  As you kill enemies and find items, you collect bits and pieces of things such as bones or mushrooms with which to make potions.  It's a very interesting set up with a plethora of options in what can be created.  When you find a laboratory, you can bring up the list of craftable potions and by adding ingredients, crushing, and heating to the instruction's specifications you are able to make all manner of things.  Looking for a draught of flame?  Done.  Elixir of health?  Here you go.  An "osseous" potion that explodes a pile of bones through the air?  Just made 10.
     On the down side of this is sometimes the instructions aren't clear.  Following the instructions exactly often resulted in "unknown" potions.  After repeated tries, I found that I had to adjust the recipes just slightly, like heating half a second longer than was stated, to achieve the correct results.  It's a little frustrating, but still mostly works.  To not sound too harsh, I'd like to add the scrolling scroll of potions in the upper right corner is one of the smoothest, and coolest, animations in the game.

     What Undergrave does well lies in its concept.  It's basically just another rogue-like, but the Castlevania-esque visuals take it to a memorable level.  Then it pushes the game further with clean, gorgeous animations, in a heavily Gothic and atmospheric environment.  It also features brilliant and fitting music, adding to the tension of the environments quite wonderfully.
     Sadly, this open alpha is plagued by one awful problem- the controls.  As they are right now, the controls are very, very clunky and unresponsive.  In a rogue-like, unresponsive controls can lead directly to death, which is unbelievably frustrating.  A great many of my deaths were due to the jump not responding and subsequently falling to my death or taking fatal damage.  Jumping while moving often stops the character and instead of jumping in an arc, he just jumps straight upwards, and in turn often meaning incurring damage that could've been avoided had the momentum carried him forwards as it should.
     It should also be noted that the "interact" button is inexplicably in the center of the screen instead of one side by all the other controls.  That way players aren't forced to stretch a finger across to the center of their devices, some of which are large enough they may need to pull a hand away to reach.

     All in all, Undergrave is a tremendous in its alpha state- it's off to an amazing start with excellent graphics and distinctly moody music.  It's got an amazing base concept of creating your alchemical weapons, but could definitely expand on that, perhaps to making more than just potions- maybe other weapons or things to enhance his whip, such as adding an elemental attack to it.  They could add a wider variety of locations, a bit of story lore for us, and some permanent unlockables to aid us in our quest.
     Regardless of whether it's still in development or not, if you are a fan of Castlevania or rogue-likes, you should definitely check Undergrave out.  Despite my complaints, it's still a beautiful little game you can pick up and play in short installments.

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     To play [ Undergrave ]

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